The latest outbreak of the EBOLA Virus Disease took origin from a town in GUINEA, one of the West African countries that hardly makes the news, and infact while the scourge ravaged that country it didn’t make breaking news, besides been scrolled in tiny prints on the bottom of the TV screen when the news channel was on, paying attention to “other pressing” matters of international importance (it seemed at the time).
Because nothing was done towards curbing its advance, the virus slipped into Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries whose health infrastructure had suffered heavily no thanks to years of civil unrest and wars, then into Nigeria, whose health institutions suffered from neglect by those in power (who go abroad to stitch simple cuts and treat headaches) at a time her doctors were (and are still) on strike (one of the many by the numerous arms of workers in the health sector). In other words, the recent outbreak hit West Africa at it’s most unprepared of times, and at its most vulnerable, as it appears that countries with stronger health care systems within the region have been largely spared.
The world soon began to take notice, as Nigeria soon witnessed its first recorded case and death of a Liberian-American on transit from Liberia for a conference in Nigeria. Until investigations are carried out it will be difficult to ascertain whether it was a failure on the part of the staff of the clinic Patrick Sawyer attended (after becoming critically ill on landing at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos), in terms of activating Universal Precautions Best Practices or a wicked intention (especially of withholding health status information) on the part of the now late Liberian to spread the infection, then possibly taking advantage of the clinic’s lax system to perpetrate it, or both.
With the closure of two health facilities in Lagos already, and morep people becoming infected (with the death of one of the nurses that attended to the late Patrick Sawyer), and yet more been quarantined by the day, as many more are placed on the surveillance list, the Ebola Virus Disease or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, appears unrelenting in hitting as many people it can lay its fangs on.
This time around, even the West hasn’t been spared, though the recorded remain two American AID workers with “SAMARITANS PURSE”, and a Spanish priest. The other case in New York of a returnee who had been to West Africa turned out to be a case of Hypochondria on the part of a traveler, unfortunately the similar case of a Saudi businessman who’d just returned from Liberia to the oil-rich Arabian country was to the contrary. The Republic of Benin appears to have witnessed a case too, though of a Nigerian, as well as the kingdom of Morocco.
The World Health Organization, WHO rising from its emergency meeting last week fell short of issuing travel bans and a closure of borders to and of the affected counties, though it described the outbreak as a GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY for which the death toll is inching closer to a thousand. The countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have however taken the initiative to close their borders, especially against one another to limit travel between their states and thereby limiting spread, while Nigeria hasn’t deemed it fit to so do, though it might be futile due to its legendary ineptitude in recent times of adequately securing its borders for which it has suffered massively especially security-wise.
As with nations still battling the menace of high illiteracy levels and accompanying lack of enlightenment, misinformation added to the challenge the Ebola virus brought upon an already compromised health care system. Having failed to take valuable lessons from nations who’ve passed through this challenge like Uganda, even Zaire where the first outbreak was discovered (the river located in the affected zone in 1976 provided the name for the disease in the first place), or even with the recent countries where misinformation was outlawed and could earn the disseminator of such misleading information a fine or time in jail, Nigerian health and information authorities foot-dragged on proactively dispensing the right and adequate information, but as usual reacted after misinformation had gained ground, in some places even as dogma. A reason for which two people died in Plateau State, and more than a score hospitalized after consuming table salt directly, in a solution, as well as bathing with water and salt solution, following a prank by a simple female student and her friends, who found themselves receiving the same text and BlackBerry messages they had broadcasted few hours back the same way and even embellished in some others. Interestingly, even after apologizing, the misinformation continued to gain ground, far and above that of even the deaths already recorded after the hypertensive conditions of the affected became aggravated, a situation not difficult to fathom considering that most Nigerians don’t even know their cardiac status (evidenced in the increased number of stroke cases). The classic case of the Fear of “The Fear of Ebola”, causing havoc even before “Ebola” itself.
Sadly, for every disease that currently defy cures, Nigeria has qualified medical doctors and scientists that have come up with unverified and unverifiable cures, as they intentionally (it seems) refuse to subject their findings to the necessary scientific protocols and scrutiny necessary for such findings to be declared authentic. Such is the case with the recent KOLANUT prophylaxis, prevention, or cure tales making the rounds, the proponent (Professor Maurice Iwu, one time Head of Nigeria’s Electoral Commission) of which currently sits on a presidential committee set up to review governments’ response to the outbreak of the disease, which for me is raising ridiculousness and charlatany to new heights, against what is the better judgement of the minister of health, who has been doing all within his power to dissuade Nigerians from unnecessarily consuming kolanuts (which has now become scarce commodity with the price of the much that’s available skyrocketed in response to increasing demand), even threatening to arrest those behind rumours of cures for this disease that seems to defy attempts at finding cures for it, just like the dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV (which can be managed with sufferers now living longer via antiretroviral medication) but much more devastating due to its 90% fatality rate within a very short period of time.
The story of a man nicknamed “Anti-Ebola”, an Ebola survivor from Guinea is full of encouragement for the fearful, that when properly managed with some luck, one may survive. The case of another survivor who had been transfused with blood from another survivor while suffering from the debilitating effects of the disease shows some promise, though the recovery couldn’t be directly linked to the transfusion he received as against the supportive treatment that was initiated once the person in question fell ill.
ZMAPP, an experimental serum mixture of three humanized monoclonal antibodies for immunological protection against the Ebola virus, holds great promise, though it had only been used to much success in primates, but the massive improvement it apparently brought about in the condition of the American Aid Worker, Dr. Kent Brantly who’d already called his wife thinking he was way past saving, and then walking, though supported, from the vehicle in which he was transported to the health facility at Emory University, to the building is quite commendable, leading to calls by many for it to be made available for widespread use though findings about it’s full effects as well as side effects appear to remain as yet inconclusive. It is heartwarming news however that America’s Food and Drug Administration, FDA has moved to relax restrictions on it’s use and all things been equal, the likelihood of the drug hitting the shelves isn’t looking far fetched any longer.
Socially, Ebola has brought animosity towards Liberians resident in Nigeria following rumours making the rounds that Patrick Sawyer intentionally brought the disease to Nigeria, while in the United States, Donald Trump appeared to have learnt very little from his Obama-nationality bashing in making very uncouth statements in the days following the return of the Ebola-infected aid workers from Liberia to American soil. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia have, in the wake of this outbreak stopped the issuance of visas to intending pilgrims for this year’s HAJJ from countries affected by the scourge, amongst other reactions, personal, national, continental as well as international.
For now it’s in the best interest for us to redouble our efforts at personal hygiene, extend such to our social and physical environment, adhering strictly to guidelines as stipulated by health care practitioners and officials. It is now bothering on the absurd for medical practitioners under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association to continue with their strike in the face of this scourge, as history will not judge in their favour at the end of the day.
World Without Ebola, Amin!