Ebola: NPA issues guidelines for port users

Management of the Nigerian Ports Authority on Wednesday issued guidelines to its employee and port users on the risks posed by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

The Managing Director of the NPA, Mallam Habib Abdullahi, in a statement by the Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Musa Iliya, said similar directives had also been given about the risk factors in a port environment.

Abdullahi said Nigerian ports were gateways and that they could be vulnerable.  He cautioned port operators, especially first line contact officers against negligence when dealing with foreigners and vulnerable groups.

He said, “We have begun enlightenment campaign at all ports and terminals about the origin, symptoms and mode of transmission of the virus.  They are also being taught how to identify people at high risk, diagnose, contain and prevent infection.

“The medical department of the NPA has equally issued guidelines to all its medical personnel on protection and prevention measures to be adopted in discharge of their duties.

“These precautionary measures to  be instilled in the workplace environment and in the port terminals will be carried out in collaboration with the Health, Safety and Environment Division of the authority.”

Abdullahi added that the measures were in line with the information from the World Health Organisation.  He expressed sympathy for those who had contacted the Ebola virus in the course of duty but noted that the NPA would leave no stone unturned to make sure that port facilities are Ebola virus-free.

And at the Seme Area command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), in collaboration with Port Health Services and other security agencies at the border post on Wednesday carried out a campaign to sensitize the border communities on the menace of the deadly virus.

Speaking with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY via the telephone, Customs Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Willy Egbudin said although the borders remained open on the orders of the Federal Government, the border communities were advised to maintain high standard of personal and environmental hygiene and the need to always be at alert.
“The borders are not closed but what we did was to sensitize people on what to do, what to avoid and to maintain personal hygiene. That is all we can do for now, the government has to tell us what next to do before we can go forward,” Egbudin said.
He said although there are no screening centres at the moment where those coming in through the border can be tested for the disease, night movement motorcycle riders has been restricted.
The measure, he said, was put in place not only to curb the spread of the virus but also in view of the security challenges facing the country.
“Before the out outbreak of the Ebola virus, we have been talking about security issues and that has to do with restricting okada movement because in our security meeting we discovered that some contrabands coming into the country were being carried out through the use of okada. So once it is 10pm, no okada will be allowed to move in and out of the border,” he said.
Meanwhile, Port Health Services at the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa said it has stepped up its effort in curtailing the spread of the virus through the seaport.
A senior official of the agency who does not want her name in print told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that they now ensure all passengers on board vessel are thoroughly screened before allowed to enter the country.
She said apart from the regular immunization administered on passengers, the officers of the environmental unit of the agency who are always the first contact with passengers on board are equipped with ‘infrared thermometer’ for screening passengers.
“When our officials go into the ship, apart from wearing their gloves,  they use the thermometer to screen passengers. The use of thermometer has been there before now but we were not using it so much but during this time of Ebola, we find out that it is one of the best and that is what we have been using,” she said.

Ebola virus disease is one of the world’s most virulent diseases, with a case fatality rate as high as 90%. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.

The EVD is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, and followed by vomiting diarrhea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function.  In some cases, there is both internal and external bleeding.