NCDC to strengthen infodemics management in response to disease outbreaks



NCDC Ihekweazu

Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it is working to strengthen infodemics management as part of national emergency preparedness and response framework.

NCDC says it is working with full support from World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Chinwe Ochu, Director of Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management, NCDC, made disclosure on Monday in Abuja.

He spoke at one of nine pre-conference workshops organised ahead of Nigerian Conference of Applied and field Epidemiology (NiCAFE) conference.

pre-conference workshops which took place on July 26 were focused on skill-building and experience sharing.

maiden Virtual Edition of NiCAFE conference is scheduled to take place between July 27 and July 28, 2021 with theme: “Building Back Better: COVID-19 and Other Disease Outbreaks”.

News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) reports that COVID-19 is first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected. 

“At same time, technology relied on to keep people connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine global response and jeopardize efforts by authorities to control the pandemic.”

Ochu speaking on “Managing Infodemics During Epidemics: COVID-19 as a Case Study”, he said that an infodemic was an overabundance of information, both online and offline.

“It includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals.

“Mis and disinformation can be harmful to people’s physical and mental health, increase stigmatisation and threaten precious health gains.

“It can also  lead to poor observance of public health measures, thus reducing their effectiveness and endangering country’s ability to stop pandemic.”

She advised journalists on tips to stay updated with verified information on infectious diseases especially in a time of crisis or conflict.

“Everyone has a role to play in managing rumours and misinformation; let’s work together to provide public with evidence-based information to ensure their safety,” she said.

Dr Abdulraman Danjuma, WHO’s Infodemic Management Consultant, said that outcome of collaborations among the national and sub-national governments as well as with partners and the private sector was to have an integrated infodemic management system in the country for addressing public health response.

Meanwhile, Dr Emily Collard of the Public Health, England, spoke on simulation exercise for emergency preparedness and response as part of the International Health Regulation (IHR), strengthening project.

She noted that simulation exercises were controlled, objective-driven activities used for evaluating emergency management processes, procedures or capabilities.

Speaking at a parallel session on  the Use of Big Data for Epidemics, Mrs Nwando Mba, Director of Laboratory Services , stated that data informs policy and public health actions.

Mba, who represented the NCDC’s Director-General, added that data informs evidence and is the heartbeat of any outbreak response.

Declaring the pre-conference workshop on simulation exercises open, Dr John Oladejo, Director of Health Emergency Preparedness and Response, NCDC, said that drawing from the theme of the conference, NiCAFE was a great opportunity to build back better leveraging on lessons learnt from Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAN recalls that the conference provided an opportunity to discuss the epidemiology of infectious diseases in the country and the impact of these on regional and global health security.

The conference allowed speakers and attendees to share their experience and knowledge, demonstrate practical techniques and guidance in preventing, detecting and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.

It also provided an opportunity for capacity development through pre-conference workshops and networking.

The pre-conference workshops  had parallels sessions.

The morning session included: Simulation Exercises as a Tool for Strengthening Epidemic Preparedness: Lessons Learnt from Nigeria’s Perspective – Public Health England.

“Using big data in epidemics – eHealth Africa.

“Managing infodemics during epidemics: COVID-19 as a case study – World Health Organization (WHO).

“Preventing Epidemics: Using the IHR Evaluation Tools for Outbreak Preparedness and Response  Resolve to Save Lives”. (NAN)