The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it is working to strengthen infodemics management as part of national emergency preparedness and response framework.
The NCDC says it is working with full support from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr Chinwe Ochu, Director of Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management, NCDC, made the disclosure on Monday in Abuja.
He spoke at one of the nine pre-conference workshops organised ahead of the Nigerian Conference of Applied and field Epidemiology (NiCAFE) conference.
The pre-conference workshops which took place on July 26 were focused on skill-building and experience sharing.
The maiden Virtual Edition of the NiCAFE conference is scheduled to take place between July 27 and July 28, 2021 with the theme: “Building Back Better: COVID-19 and Other Disease Outbreaks”.
Our Correspondent reports that COVID-19 is the 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 the same time, the technology relied on to keep people connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the 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 the 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 the country’s ability to stop the 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 the public with evidence-based information to ensure their safety,” she said.
Dr Abdulraman Danjuma, WHO’s Infodemic Management Consultant, said that the 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.
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”.