By Ochiaka Ugwu
With the declaring of Nigeria and Nigerians Ebola Free by World Health Organisation (WHO), citizens all over the country and beyond greeted the certification with fanfare thereby heaving a sigh of relief that the killer Ebola virus has been kicked out of the system. The global body in announcing the declaration said Nigeria has completed an extended 42 –day observation period and called the country’s ability to contain a deadly virus a “spectacular success”.
“The lines on the tabular situation reports, sent to WHO each day by its country office in Nigeria, have now been full of zeros for 42 days,” WHO said in a statement.
Continuing it said “This is a spectacular success story that shows that Ebola can be contained. The story of how Nigeria ended what many believed to be potentially the most explosive Ebola outbreak imaginable is worth telling in detail.”
Basking in the euphoria that greeted the certification, President Goodluck Jonathan who welcomed the declaration by the WHO dedicated the success to the many patriotic health workers, volunteers and ordinary Nigerians who worked tirelessly, some of them paying the ultimate price, to stop the deadly virus in its track after it entered the country in July, somebody like Dr. Amayo Adadevoh who died trying to save the country the epidemic.
In a statement by the Presidential spokesman, Rueben Abati, read Dr. Jonathan dedicated the certification to the many “patriotic health workers, volunteers and ordinary Nigerians who worked tirelessly, some of them paying the ultimate price, to stop the deadly virus in its track after it entered the country in July this year”.
The president also praised the state governments and other bodies involved in the fight against the dreaded virus.
“The president seizes this opportunity to also reiterate his appreciation of the contributions of state governments, WHO and other international health organisations, relatives of infected persons and other Nigerians who either courageously underwent the rigours of being quarantined or complied with all directives issued by health authorities to defeat the virus.
Mr. Jonathan said Nigeria’s globally-acclaimed success against Ebola is a testimony to what Nigerians can achieve if they set aside their differences and work together.
“As the nation applauds the success of its collective effort to stop the transmission of the Ebola Virus within Nigeria however, the President warns that the entire country must remain fully alert and vigilant against the re-entry of the virus,” he was quoted as saying.
The statement said Mr. Jonathan agreed with WHO that while Nigeria has won a battle against Ebola, the war will only truly end when West Africa, Africa and the world are declared free of Ebola” the statement read in part.
Mr. President consequently directed that all the anti-Ebola measures taken after the entry of the virus into the country should remain in place and that health officials should continue to actively screen persons entering the country through its air, land and sea borders for any sign of the virus. He also urged Nigerians to continue to follow the anti-Ebola advisories on sanitation and personal hygiene issued by Federal and State Health authorities.
However, it is incontestable to say that the news of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak left Nigerians reeling with palpable hysteria and unfathomable fear. This was confirmed after a Liberian national, Patrick Sawyer died of the virus in a Lagos hospital while on transit to United States. At a point, the situation got so bad that people now fear to freely interact with their relatives and friends, especially in affected states. Even the Catholic Church dumped its old tradition of sign of peace, where people freely shake hands to show that they are at peace with each other. To say that the fear of the virus is the beginning of wisdom is equally a reality. With this clean bill of health coming from world number one health monitor and disease control, medical experts said that the battle has been won but not the war as the war on Ebola rages on. What is however a matter of contention is whether Nigeria posses the ability nay wherewithal to sustain the verdict of the WHO by preventing incursion and the viral spread of the deadly virus.
This fear was expressed by President Jonathan when he said that while Nigeria has won a battle against Ebola, the war will only truly end when West Africa, Africa and the world are declared free of Ebola.
According to study, symptoms of EVD are Malaria-like, including fever, weakness of the joints, vomiting, severe abdominal pains, bleeding from the mouth, nose and ear, and an outbreak of noxious skin rashes and eventual death in a week or two.
There is every need for the authority to sensitize Nigerians on this to enable them report immediately they notice such abnormality.
The ballyhoo that accompanied the outbreak of EVD was so paralyzing that the media was replete with stories of Nigerians taking bath with water spiced with salt and even consuming large quantities of it, a development that led to the untimely death of those unfortunate Nigerians.
Because there is no known cure so far and all drugs developed to treat the dreaded scourge remain merely experimental, efforts have largely been focused on prevention as a veritable means of curtailing its spread.
This explains why the government at all levels, stakeholders, traditional rulers and Nigerian public should come together to sustain this declaration by constituting a high-powered technical committee to manage and curtail its threat in the nation.
It is also important in the light of this reality that the minister of Health should make it clear that the fight against the virus is everybody’s task while letting Nigerians know that it is the responsibility of everyone to help sustain this declaration.
It is a matter of involving the uninvolved.
The federal government should have the responsibilities of working out modalities for responding to the threat of the Ebola virus; create awareness on the nature and symptoms of the virus, to proactively prepare an action plan for its containment; work out ways for effective surveillance of the population, visitors and travellers and to recommend tools and methods for managing cases if they arise among others.
To further boost the fight against this monster that has virtually raised the tempo before now, the government should designate and isolate a centre in each of the 774 Local Governments for management of possible victims of Ebola fever for prompt response. In doing this, all precautionary measures must be put in place to ensure that the designation of the centres would not endanger the health of medical staff and other workers at the hospital as well as residents of the areas.
As it is now, the real challenge of this raging health problem lies in government’s ability to overhaul our health delivery and preventive systems which is long overdue. It is the opinion of most health workers that considering the nation’s enormous wealth, every part of Nigeria, including the rural areas should have first class medical facilities whose impact on the citizenry is overwhelmingly comprehensive and embracing.
consequently, even in the face of the intimidating challenges posed by this threat, the measures taken so far by the government is encouraging and raises the hope of Nigerians about the capacity of the authorities to give the deadly virus a good fight.
If Nigeria hopes to clinically sustain this declaration against this virus as promised by President Jonathan, it must embark on massive public awareness campaigns in both English and major Nigerian languages in both electronic and print media with a view to sensitizing people on the dangers posed by the virus and how to avoid contacting it.
Similarly, government must commence immediate collaboration with all stakeholders irrespective of party affiliation in the areas of procuring drugs and equipment that are highly critical in containing the virus.
Deliberate efforts should be intensified towards continuously soliciting the cooperation of traditional rulers, religious leaders and youth in all nooks and crannies of the nation to ensure that the declaration is sustained for the wellbeing of Nigerians.