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Nigeria adopts measures to keep SARS at bay
( 2003-06-16 15:38) (Xinhua)

The Nigerian federal government has made greater efforts to keep the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS) out of the country, a senior health official said Friday.

Alhaji Shehu Suleiman, permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, said the measures adopted were aimed at ensuring that the epidemic did not enter the most populous African country with a population of over 126 million.

The permanent secretary, who is also chairman of Nigeria's Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Prevention of SARS, said the materials included special masks, gloves, protective gowns, infra-red digital thermometers, spray machines and chemicals.

"I am glad to state that some quantities of these materials have been procured and deployed to ports of entry for easy identification of cases," Suleiman said.

In addition, Nigeria has also installed facilities at the nation's six international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Calabar, Kanoand Port Harcourt for the screening of arriving passengers.

Suleiman said the materials had been distributed to centers while epidemiologists had been stationed in the areas for the exercise.

He called for mass mobilization by all Nigerians, especially the media, to educate the people about the symptoms, which include high fever, dry cough, difficult breathing, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, headache and body aches.

According to the permanent secretary, public health organizations across the country have been directed to set up quarantine and isolation treatment wards to attend to eventual cases of SARS.

In Lagos, the largest commercial city in the West African country, more than 4,000 people arriving from SARS-infected countries and regions around the world have been screened since the federal government began its surveillance for the disease.

Similarly, five Nigerians deported from Southeast Asia, where the infection has a high prevalence rate, were quarantined for at least 10 days to ascertain their state of health.

Earlier, Abdulsalami Nasidi, chairman of the ministerial team on SARS of the Federal Health Ministry, said that the federal government was ready to tackle the disease if it eventually entered the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the syndrome, which spreads through cough and sneezes but can be transmitted by touching contaminated objects, has a death rate of around 10 per cent or more.

It has claimed 790 of lives around the world and infected 8,445in about 30 countries since its emergence late last year. But the pneumonia-like disease has not been reported in Nigeria yet.

On Thursday, the WHO said that the global SARS outbreak may be nearing an end.

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