Nigeria has become an international reference point in the control of communicable diseases at airports across the globe, so the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr YakubuDati,said in a chat with Aviationline in Lagos. He was speaking on the country’s state of preparedness to control the spread of the Zika virus disease at the nation’s airports.

MMA airport new 2
Muritala Muhammed Airport Terminal 2, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria

According to him, we are aware that our airports serve as windows both to the world and into the country and as such we are not taking things for granted in the bid to ensure that the Zika disease patients don’t import the epidemic through any of our airports.

“The Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health as the public agency in charge of border health issues is on top of the matter and as the landlord, it is getting the full support of FAAN to make sure that those infected with the Zika disease don’t enter into the country through any of our airports,” he said.

The FAAN image maker revealed that following the country’s experience in handling the spread of the Ebola virus, many of our experts were invited to different fora to share experience with the international community especially in the wake of the outbreak of the Zika virus disease at destinations from where flights originate into the country.

Sao Paulo, largest Latin American City.
Sao Paulo, largest Latin American City.

Mr Dati revealed that the contact tracking strategies deployed in the wake of the Ebola disease outbreak were second to none the world over and they were seen to have yielded positive results hence they are now being adopted by the international community to control the explosion of the Zika disease.

Zika, which up todate has no known treatment and vaccine, is a mosquito-borne virus disease linked to birth defects in Brazil and which outbreak has become an issue of concern among aviators across the globe due to its potential of spreading to different parts of the world with its fatal repercussions.

In a reaction to its outbreak early in the new year, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention urged pregnant women to delay their flights to destinations where the disease was rampant while airlines are taking measures not to expose their employees to the disease.

America Delta Airline
America Delta Airline

American carriers, United and Delta Airlines, for instance, were among the first to offer their flight crew and pilots the opportunity to be re-assigned from routes to Latin America and the Caribbean.

In an internal memo dated January 28, United advised expectant flight attendants as well as those seeking to become pregnant could switch routes to avoid Zika-affected regions without repercussions.

Delta, according to its spokesman, Morgan Durrant, similarly, let flight attendants and pilots switch assignments since January 17.

In addition, both carriers offered refunds for flights to impacted areas while the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a global health emergency regarding the disease.

Also, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, Sara Nelson, expressed concern about the health of her members.

United’s spokesman, Charles Hobart, said: “The safety of our employees and customers is paramount, and we are providing this option because it’s the right thing to do.” The carrier has approximately 20,000 flight attendants.

In a similar development, authorities in Florida, Texas and New York states in America have expanded a public health emergency over the Zika virus.

Florida’s warm climate and nearly year-round mosquito season makes it particularly vulnerable to spreading, although so far all of the state’s cases were acquired abroad.

Florida International Airport
Florida International Airport

Governor Rick Scott directed state officials to pay special attention to mosquito control in the affected counties including Broward and Miami-Dade in south Florida, Hillsborough in the Tampa region, Lee County in southwest Florida and Santa Rosa County in the Florida Panhandle.

“Just like a hurricane, we have to ensure Florida is safe,” Governor Rick Scott said, calling it prudent to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

He also called for federal health officials to provide the state with at least 1,000 Zika antibody tests so the state can test pregnant women who have been to affected countries and experienced symptoms of the virus. The state is also boosting its inventory of testing kits for active cases, Scott said.

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, directed that his state’s free Zika testing should henceforth include all pregnant women who have been to countries where people are being infected just as authorities in Texas said a person in Dallas had become infected with Zikaafter having sex with another person who had been in Venezuela, where the virus is circulating.

With these measures airline bookings to parts of Latin America and the Caribbean had slipped globally from a 4.9% increase last December to an all-time low 3.4% since mid -February.

The study, which analysed about 14 million daily reservation transactions, provides early evidence of Zika’s potentially broad impact on travel demand to some Latin American countries.