What would happen if yellow fever started spreading in Lagos today? From the 12th to 15th of March, various partners and stakeholders came together to find out during a simulation exercise.
What is simulation?
Simulation is an imitated or pretend situation. For this exercise, actors were used as patients who showed up at various health facilities and points of entry around Lagos state and presented symptoms that could indicate yellow fever. Only select people at those sites knew they were acting.
So the question was, would the healthworkers and officials at these various sites detect and contain them? Would the system respond in a way that would limit the spread of a possible infectious disease and protect the public?
The idea was to simulate – or pretend to have – an outbreak of yellow fever so the gaps and challenges at all levels could be identified BEFORE an actual emergency situation arises.
Why a simulation exercise?
Assessing how prepared we are for the next potential outbreak is important. The simulation exercise allowed Lagos state’s emergency preparedness and response system to be tested in a safe and controlled way without actually putting anyone at risk (because there was no real infection spreading, it was just a simulated outbreak).
The exercise was able to test everything from the effectiveness of emergency policies and procedures to ambulance response times to communication and information flow across agencies.
Simulation made it possible to see where the state’s health and emergency response systems are failing or performing at sub-optimal levels, and also see where they are successful so the failures can be addressed and successes can be identified and built on.
Why yellow fever?
A few reasons:
Why Lagos state?
Lagos is a mega-city. The most populous city in the most populous country on the African continent.
And we know that infectious diseases don’t respect borders. They don’t requires visas or passports to travel so any public health emergency or outbreak in Lagos has implications for the region, the rest of the continent, and potentially the whole world.
Additionally, Lagos is the economic center of Nigeria and already tackled one major outbreak (Ebola) in 2014.
Who was involved in testing Lagos state’s response?
The easier question may be who WASN’T involved! The type and scale of this exercise has never been done before in Africa. The leading groups were the West African Health Organization (WAHO), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)/Federal Ministry of Health, Lagos State Ministry of Health (LSMOH), and Public Health England (PHE).
Local participants included:
International participants included:
As you can imagine from this long list, the diversity of the participants’ professional experiences and the varied contexts in which they all work made it a very exciting exercise.
During the simulation, DRASA observed at the Public Health Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which was the centralized site for the coordination of information and resources for the “outbreak.” The EOC was staffed by Lagos State Ministry of Health along with key partners, and the various departments included:
The main findings and lessons learnt during the simulation exercise are being shared and disseminated across Nigeria, the ECOWAS region, and to other relevant stakeholders.
The goal is to:
Needless to say, there’s a lot to do!
Check the gallery below for pictures from the simulation exercise and stay tuned to find out how DRASA is supporting the next steps.