UAB graduate leads Ebola containment efforts in Nigeria

Faisal Shuaib, M.D., Dr.P.H., graduated from the UAB School of Public Health in 2010 and now serves as the head of the National Ebola Emergency Operations Center in Africa’s most populous country.

faisal shuaibNigeria, Africa’s most populous country, recently saw its own Ebola outbreak emerge. But with a coordinated response led by a University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate, it quickly became contained.

Faisal Shuaib, M.D., Dr.P.H., is incident manager and head of the National Ebola Emergency Operations Center in Nigeria. Shuaib graduated from the UAB School of Public Health’s Dr.P.H. in International Health program in 2010.

“I’m accountable for ensuring that functional outbreak response systems are established to contain Ebola in Nigeria, and I’m in charge of establishing a comprehensive system that provides quality diagnosis, treatment, care and follow-up of Ebola patients, their contacts and their families,” Shuaib said.

The first case of Ebola in Nigeria came into Lagos state by flight on July 20 when an ill traveler arrived from Liberia. During the course of the disease, Shuaib says the country recorded 19 confirmed cases, with the final cases occurring on Aug. 18 and Aug. 31 in Lagos and Port Harcourt, respectively.

The World Health Organization declared that the disease has been contained in Nigeria, according to Shuaib. Nigeria is currently waiting to complete 42 days, or two incubation periods, since the discharge of the last case on Sept. 7, before it will officially declare the outbreak over by Oct. 20.

The World Health Organization declared that the disease has been contained in Nigeria, according to Shuaib. Nigeria is currently waiting to complete 42 days, or two incubation periods, since the discharge of the last case on Sept. 7, before it will officially declare the outbreak over by Oct. 20.

“Despite this progress, we are not letting our guard down; there is still a lot of work to be done,” Shuaib said. “We have to continue active surveillance for Ebola 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, screening of incoming and outgoing travelers is ongoing in all ports of entry, including airports, seaports and land crossings. Furthermore, social mobilization to increase awareness is being sustained.”

Shuaib received his medical training in Nigeria, but he says without a doubt his training from the UAB School of Public Health provided the additional tools needed to rise up to the challenge of leading such an immense effort.

“I especially benefited from the focus on tropical infectious diseases, during which I learned the essential principles and practices related to the epidemiology and containment of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola,” Shuaib said.

Taught by Pauline Jolly, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology, the tropical infectious diseases coursework is designed to introduce students to the major infectious diseases of public health importance in tropical countries and around the world.

“Along with our UAB experts, we bring in experts annually from the CDC and Tulane University to lecture on Ebola, Lassa and other hemorrhagic fever viruses,” Jolly said. “In class, we discuss infection control strategies, as well as social problems encountered during outbreaks. Therefore, Dr. Shuaib was well aware of the need to inform the public, to gain their trust, and to set up isolation and supportive treatment facilities to help people recover if he were to successfully contain the outbreak.”

“I heard about UAB from graduates of the School of Public Health,” Shuaib said. “I was impressed with their level of knowledge, skill and professionalism. Plus the allure of coming to the American South to study in a prestigious, multicultural community renowned for its outstanding scholarship was irresistible. So when I got the chance to come to UAB, I knew it was going to be what turned out to be an exciting and rewarding experience. It was a life-changing event for me because it opened me up to opportunities and a wide range of mentors and friends who have continued to enrich me professionally.”

Jolly says she is extremely proud of Shuaib’s efforts.

“His achievement in leading and directing an army of contact-tracing and surveillance teams of more than 1,100 health workers and volunteers, and in containing what could have been the biggest outbreak in West Africa, is nothing short of amazing,” Jolly said. “He is a highly intelligent and proficient person. The authorities in Nigeria definitely identified the best person for the job.”

“The UAB School of Public Health has outstanding graduates in prominent positions here in the United States and around the world, and Dr. Shuaib is just another great example of that,” Jolly said.

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