By Ese Awhotu & Evelyn Okakwu
Since the discovery of Ebola in Nigeria, through the late Patrick Sawyer, who came into the country from Liberia with the disease, so much has been said about the deadly disease.
Fortunately for Nigeria, current reports revealed that the situation in Lagos, where the first imported case was detected in July, looks reassuring. At present, the city’s 12 confirmed cases are all part of a single chain of transmission. Those infected by the initial case include medical staff involved in Sawyer’s treatment, a patient in the same hospital, and a protocol officer in very close contact with the patient.
Patrick sawyer who reportedly defied health precautions by moving into Nigeria, despite knowledge of the disease was vomiting frequently during travel and upon arrival. No one on the same flight was infected.
The full recovery to date of one infected contact, followed closely by four more of them is additional good news. Evidence suggests that early detection and supportive therapy increase the prospects of survival.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also stated that; “Intensive contact tracing, conducted by Nigerian health officials and staff from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, has not, so far, identified any further confirmed cases outside the initial transmission chain.
The intensity of the search and monitoring effort raises cautious optimism that further spread of the virus in Nigeria can be stopped. Reports reveal that the search for additional cases continues”. The report by the World Health organization on the current situation of Ebola
in Nigeria seeks to suggest that the search for possible new cases within the country is on-going.
What the masses have not stopped asking, however, is what the government is doing to prevent a re-emergence of yet another Patrick sawyer, in the country. The enormity of the act committed by the Late Liberian American has variously been described by some Nigerians as the peak of greed and selfishness, especially after the wide spread analysis of the explanation for the man’s actions given by his wife, Decontee Sawyer, on the Facebook platform.
According to Decontee, Patrick decided to come to Nigeria to find refuge, because in her words; “He was probably hoping that; “If I could only get to Nigeria, a way more developed country than Liberia, I would get help”
If this analogy by Decontee is anything to go by, then there could in fact be worse fears in the future for Nigeria, as long as the Ebola Virus remains within Africa, or even the world.
As patients suffering from the disease continue to recover, the possibility of having a case like that which caused the importation of the disease cannot be overruled. Yet, only a couple of days back, the Interior minister, Comrade Abba Moro stated regarding the closure of borders, thus: “Isolated incidence of the death of Patrick Sawyer on account of Ebola is not
sufficient for this country to close its borders.
“Closure of borders is an extreme situation that has its own wide range of consequences and so unless it becomes absolutely necessary, we don’t intend to close our borders as long as information comes to us indicates that Nigerian
Medical workers and Nigerian Immigration Service and all other Health officials are striving to contend the situation, no need to close our borders.”
These Nigerians share their opinions on the meaning of the statement: “Striving to contend the situation, as explained by the interior minister. Clement Dauda works at the Utako district complex; “I am sure they are really doing something to curtail the situation, because we have not heard of another person entering into Nigeria with the disease. But the problem is that
Nigeria is used to the ‘Reaction approach’ to things.
We had enough time to curtail this problem, but now, even Nigeria, has recorded a death resulting from the virus, so we should try our best to make sure that the news about people infected in Nigeria with the disease are being cured, will not force others to start trooping into Nigeria, unguarded thereby causing more problems for innocent Nigerians.”
Also another respondent, Raphael Etim says. “I think the best way now to curtail the situation is that government should close borders leading to countries that have the disease and scrutinise all persons coming into the country. They should also try to see to it that the strike by Doctors end so that all stakeholders can help in bringing about a final end to this problem, because I believe that Nigeria has all it takes to help even the continent to eradicate this disease.
Previous cases have proven that the average Nigerian masses are not yet fully prepared to face the spread of any such disease, as indicated a couple of days back, by Nigerians who exhibited their degree of confusion about the pandemic when rumours of a cure through the use of salt and warm water dominated the news all over the country, with the social media playing a key role in misleading a people already on the verge of confusion.
The Nigerian government has since drafted a committee to look into the problem, with the President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, declaring a national emergency on the disease (following the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, WHO) and approving the sum of N1.9 billion special intervention fund to tackle the growing challenges emanating from the outbreak.
Also the international community has played its role in the effort to deal with what has variously been described as the world’s deadliest disease in recent times.
According to WHO “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other States”.
“The current EVD outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. This outbreak now involves transmission in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Patrick Sawyer, who imported the disease into Nigeria, came in on the 20th of August and died on the 25th of the same month.
As of August 2014, the above named countries have reported 1 711 cases. 1070 of which were confirmed, 436 probable, and 205 cases regarded as suspect”. This number, WHO further says include 932 deaths, noting that this is currently the largest EVD outbreak ever recorded.”
WHO further indicated that the possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries.
A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola. For Nigeria, the chairman, association of Medical Laboratory scientists of Nigeria, Dr, Casmir Ifeanyi stated regarding the outbreak and its like that “We need to begin to build capacity of health care professionals, particularly, medical laboratory personnel. Diagnoses and surveillance are all laboratory issues and this is key in dealing with the issue of Ebola”.
As noted by the chairman; “The current industrial action embarked upon by the Nigerian Medical Association has not in any way helped the fight to rid the country of the wide spread of Ebola”; just as the decision of government to sack the striking lecturers has also not been too helpful to the plight at hand.
WHO, rightly states that the health system in the affected states are fragile with limited personnel. And that the rate of free mobility of persons may constitute a problem. “Their health systems are fragile with significant deficits in human, financial and material resources, resulting in compromised ability to mount an adequate Ebola outbreak control response; High mobility of populations and several instances of cross-border movement
of travellers with infection; Several generations of transmission have occurred in the three capital cities of Conakry (Guinea); Monrovia (Liberia); and Freetown (Sierra Leone); and a
high number of infections have been identified among health-care workers, highlighting inadequate infection control practices in many facilities”.
Fortunately for us in Nigeria, such a spread has not been recorded even as the global death toll hits 1,229.
Yet in the light of the given experience so much needs to be done to prevent another external inversion