University of Alabama at Birmingham alumnus Dr. Faisal M. Shuaib, is heading up the National Ebola Emergency Operations Center in Nigeria, managing the country’s outbreak response with the goal to contain Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) within its borders. As Incident Manager, Dr. Shuaib, a graduate of UAB’s department of epidemiology, is in charge of establishing a comprehensive system that provides quality diagnostic, treatment, and follow-up care of EVD patients as well as of their contacts and families. In addition, he provides guidance to technical and clinical response teams; works with ministries and government agencies to support the national response; coordinates input from partner organizations; and ensures that the necessary human, financial, and material resources are not only provided but also properly utilized.
In July, the disease was brought into Lagos—Nigeria’s most populous city, with over 20 million people living within approximately 1,390 square miles—by an infected Liberian airline passenger. During the course of the resulting outbreak that had 891 contacts under observation, Nigeria recorded 19 confirmed cases of EVD, of which there were seven deaths and 12 discharged survivors. Due to the critical efforts of Dr. Shuaib and others, no new cases of EVD have been reported in Nigeria since September 22.
This lack of additional cases has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare that the disease has been contained in Nigeria. But Dr. Shuaib cautions, “Despite this progress, we are not letting down our guard; there is still a lot of work to be done. We have to continue active surveillance for EVD in health facilities and communities. As long as the disease rages on in other West African countries, there is always the risk of importation.” Therefore, social mobilization to increase awareness is ongoing, and screening of incoming and outgoing travelers continues at all ports of entry into the country.
Dr. Shuaib credits his training at UAB’s School of Public Health for giving him the tools needed to meet the challenge of leading such an enormous effort. He specifies, “I benefited immensely from the Tropical Infectious Diseases course taught by Professor Pauline Jolly, during which I learned the essential principles and practices related to the epidemiology and containment of Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers.” Speaking of her former student, who was named the School of Public Health’s Outstanding Doctoral Graduate in 2010, Dr. Jolly says, “His achievement in leading and directing an army of contact tracing and surveillance teams of more than 500 health workers and volunteers and in containing what could have been the biggest outbreak in West Africa is nothing short of amazing.”