I’m sure by now, most of us have heard about the latest finding of the cure for the ebola virus. Such good news it is! That’s really a breath of fresh air, compared to all that is going on in the country.
Ebola has made the world, most especially Nigerians, seemingly feel hopeless. Recall when the virus was discovered in the country. We did all sorts of outrageous things like bathing with a lot of salt and cold water as early as 4 am. Considering the health implications of excess salt in the human body. To this day, I still wonder who came up with that idea and why.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has been described as the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak since the first case of the disease was reported in 1976.
The Ebola virus was introduced into Nigeria on the 20th of July, 2014. An infected Liberian man arrived by airplane into Lagos, Africa’s most populous city. The man, who died in hospital 5 days later, set off a chain of transmission that infected a total of 19 people, 7 of whom died.
Strong public awareness campaigns, teamed with early engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders, also played a key role in the successful containment of this outbreak.
There were cases of deaths that period, not from ebola itself, but from “preventive” measures of using salt. That’s the extent to which Nigerians can go in preventing an outbreak. As much as that was a bit extreme and a lot of educated people partook.
We can’t take away the fact that as a country, we came together and fought against something. All over the country, and from all the sectors especially schools, everyone cooperated. Hand sanitizers, gloves, and an oxygen mask were a must-have. Not to forget the no-body-contact rule. They all helped eventually towards the prevention of ebola. And the government put in their best to combat it.
We were the first country to effectively contain and eliminate the Ebola threat that was ravaging three other countries.
Now, to the crux of the matter. There is an ebola scare in the air. It has not been verified, yet, but there is news that the virus is not far from us again.
I know that they said there’s now the cure but some years back, we were made to understand that there was a vaccine available which the Nigerian government paid billions to acquire. Sad to say that’s the last we heard of it. If the Nigerian government paid to acquire the vaccines then, do we still need to worry?
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) stated that a preliminary risk assessment has been conducted and based on available data, the overall risk of importation of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to Nigeria remains low.
The disease control agency noted that it has put in place several measures to ensure adequate preparedness and has also tightened security to properly put in place security measures at airports. NCDC also said there are currently ongoing Infection Prevention Control (IPC) programs nationwide, including the development of new guidelines, as well as training packages for health care workers to mitigate transmission.
The agency urged Nigerians to “avoid direct handling of dead wild animals, avoid physical contact with anyone who has possible symptoms of an infection with an unknown diagnosis, make sure fruit and vegetables are properly washed and peeled before you eat them.”
Health care workers are also advised to ensure universal precautions at all times.
We should start implementing the precautions right away. We can start by getting hand sanitizers and being extra careful with places we expose ourselves to. This is because there’s only so much scrutiny that can be done in the airports for people coming into the country. We don’t know where they’ve been to and who they’ve come in contact with.
The Nigerian government and staff in the WHO Country Office are well aware that the country remains vulnerable to another imported case. The surveillance system remains at a level of high alert. Although there has been a significant reduction in the epidemic, there is a need to x-ray opportunities presented by the epidemic in the context of global health.
In the words of former Nigerian Minister of Health “It’s possible to control Ebola. It’s possible to defeat Ebola. We’ve seen it here in Nigeria. If any cases emerge in the future, it will be considered-by international standards-a separate outbreak. If that happens, Nigeria will be ready and able to confront it exactly as we have done with this outbreak”. The country’s response to the EVD epidemic has been found to be among the best public health practices globally.
Even though the country is free from the disease, health practitioners recommend the following;
- The country’s emergency response plan should be maintained, and efforts should be made to strengthen it
- A high level of surveillance of the associated risk factors should be sustained including among the animal population
- High level of hygiene and sanitary practices attained during the peak of the epidemic should be encouraged as part of the overall measures of protecting the health of the public, and
- Subsequent responses should incorporate the provision of psychological support and rehabilitation of individuals and families affected by the disease.