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Nigeria News: WHO devotes $1b to fight swine flu

The World Health Organisation has earmarked the sum of $1.02b to fight the spread of the swine flu virus, even as the Nigerian delegation attending the 62nd World Health Assembly in Geneva requested for the assistance of the body and the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish more laboratories that can detect the Influenza A H1N1 virus and strengthen existing ones.

Nigerians working with the WHO have also pledged to help the country.

Also, the 193 WHO affiliate countries attending the 62nd World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, have harmonised strategies to fight the flu virus while African Health ministers met yesterday in a special session and adopted a common position on the need for more international support to strengthen laboratory services across the continent to detect the virus.

The WHA also yesterday resolved to appropriate $1,023,840,000 for the financial period 2010 to 2011 to fight diseases.

However, the latest update on Influenza A H1N1 outbreak released yesterday by WHO indicated that the virus spread has been restricted to 40 countries.

According to the WHO, as of 06:00 GMT, May 20, 2009, 40 countries have officially reported 10, 243 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection, including 80 deaths. This means that one more person has died of the virus with 413 new cases in 24 hours.

The latest figures are, however, an improvement compared to Tuesday when WHO reported 1,001 new cases and five deaths in 24 hours. As of 06:00 GMT on Tuesday, 40 countries had officially reported 9,830 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection, including 79 deaths. This was against 8,829 cases and 74 deaths reported in 40 countries on Monday.

The interesting thing is that the virus seems to be contained in 40 countries since no new country has reported any case since Monday.

Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, in a meeting with Nigerians living and working in Geneva yesterday, said the country has being in contact with the CDC and the WHO in its quest to strengthen its laboratory systems.

Osotimehin said the two WHO-certified laboratories at Abuja and Ibadan, and the yet-to-be-certified one at Maiduguiri would not be enough for a country as big as Nigeria to manage a possible outbreak. Osotimehin also explained how the country managed a swine flu scare from a Lebanese and a Schlumberger worker from the United States.

He said: “We have a Nigerian at CDC and we have been talking on how the centre can help us to improve our lab systems to be able to better diagnose Influenza A H1N1. We are also asking Nigerians, many of them working at the WHO headquarters here, to use their office and see how the country could be supported in this area.

“We need to further extend our laboratory detection system. So for Nigeria, two or three laboratories might be a little small. Though we do not pray for it, if we start getting cases coming up here and there, these laboratories would not be able to handle it.”

The minister said the existing surveillance system for disease outbreak has been activated.

“There are people now in the states and local governments who are looking at it, and if there is any, they will report. They are going through training and we do get updates from them,” he explained.

The Asokoro District Hospital, National Influenza Diagnostic Laboratory in Abuja was in April certified as a diagnostic centre for Influenza A (H1N1) infection in humans. This development was based on the listing of Nigeria by the WHO as one of the countries capable of diagnosing the Influenza A (H1N1) infection in humans. The nation got the listing based on the global health body’s approval of countries with Polymerase Chain Reactor (PCR) capacity in place to diagnose the pathogen.

According to WHO guidelines, the National Influenza Centres (NICs) of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN) and National Influenza Reference Laboratories in countries without NICs but which fulfill certain criteria and are having PCR capacity ready in place, could be approved for detection of the influenza.

Among these requirements are a score of 100 per cent in the last two or more WHO external quality assurance programme panels (EQAP2) or a score of 100 per cent in the last EQAP panel and a history of consistent correct results for earlier panels.

Meanwhile, WHA, in a draft resolution proposed by the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, titled “Appropriation resolution for the financial period 2010-2011,” indicated that the $1,023,840,000 for the financial period 2010 to 2011 to fight diseases will be financed by net assessments on members of $928840000, estimated as Miscellaneous Income of $15000000, and transfer to Tax Equalisation Fund of US80000000.

The WHA is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It meets once a year and is attended by delegations from all of WHO’s 193 member states.

Its main function is to determine the policies of the organisation.

It also appoints the director-general and supervises the financial policies of the organisation