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Published On: Tue, Aug 19th, 2014

Ebola? Close the borders – now!!! (III)

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Ebola-VirusBy Hannatu Msawa

It must be said that the Lagos government has done an extra ordinary job in trying to contain the virus. The rapid response of the authorities in Lagos, in setting up quarantine centers, creating awareness, providing the required equipment and constantly updating the public with information has been remarkable. If such a heavy burden and responsibility had to be imposed on any of our governments within the country, it is somewhat of an ‘unfortunate relief’ that it lay on the most organized and competent authority in Nigeria. However, even with that, as the ground zero of Ebola in Nigeria, Lagos state should also consider shutting its borders for the duration of the stipulated incubation period while continuing with the awareness campaigns enlightening the populace of the effects of the Ebola virus and the importance of reporting any suspected case within the period that lives can be saved. This should also apply to any state where a case of Ebola is found. Once people understand that the only way to stop the virus is to prevent it and the only way to save the life of an infected person is to treat the symptoms early after infection, one would believe that people would cooperate and come forward when symptoms occur. If the virus is not contained and eradicated within Lagos and is allowed to get out of the state, the consequence would be extremely colossal for a population of 170-million people and, by extension, for the world.

For the future, African countries have got to try and improve the capacity of its various hygiene and medical systems to respond to all these health emergencies, whether it is Ebola, Lassa fever, Marbug, Cholera or any other disease. However, for now, sanitary gloves, disinfectants, sanitizers and face-masks (the likes of which I am displaying) should be made available to people in Lagos and other part of Nigeria in sensitive environments such as hospitals and laboratories to further help in curbing the spread of the virus. The basic protective gear, such as masks and gloves, will primarily benefit those in high-risk environments but it’s not necessary for every day or domestic use.

Also, decisive action has got to be taken on some very worrying and emerging elements of this disease. Since news of Ebola broke, government authorities and medical experts have been battling misinformation and folktales with the capacity to worsen the situation. In one such incident a prank about ‘salt’ having the ability to kill Ebola was started by an attention seeking young woman who later sent a ‘salty’ confession to the media, if only to reinforce that desperation for attention. (Her gloating confession can be read on the following link: ‘But-for’ the fact her antics allegedly lead to the death of, at least two people and 20 others being hospitalized for consuming an excessive quantity of salt in order to protect themselves from the virus, she could have been known as a trifling-little-fool. But now, she is something much worse. And one would hope that she understands the high price that has been paid and the shocking tragedy that has come from her quest for her five-minutes of fame.

Government must clamp down on those promoting false theories on, not just salt, but bitter kola as well. Equally, authorities must vehemently warn Muslim and Christian clerics and traditionalists from utterances that suggest an alternative to conventional medicine. Faith and spirituality is, no doubt, the most important component of any struggle and challenge, but we must ensure that it is channeled in a way that will help our communities follow the instructions of medical experts to contain and eradicate the disease as opposed to hindering efforts to try and get it under control. All religious leaders and herbalists must be given the explicit order not to make public statements on Ebola that may have dire results.

Another necessary target group for the authorities to clamp down on are the people who continue to insist on hunting and eating bush meat, despite the stern warning of the danger it may carry. Handling uncooked bat with the virus strain and eating bush meat are some of the ways experts suspect that the Ebola virus has been transmitted from the animal world to the human one, after which human-to-human contact then becomes possible.

Since the outbreak of the disease, several countries have banned the hunting or trading of bush meat. But unfortunately in most of those countries, many have ignored the ban and continued to expose themselves and the larger community to the risk of contracting the virus through their ingestion of bush-meat. In an Al Jazeera news interview (which can be seen on the following link, *recommended to watch*), the chairman of the Nigerian National Association of Hunters, OlasehindeAfolabi, insists that he will continue eating bush meat. In the clip, when the reporter interviews him, Mr. Afolabi lividly declares, “It’s a lie… It’s a beyond lie! If they don’t want bush meat, they should not eat it, but we the hunters… they cannot say we should not eat it and they cannot tell the public not to be eating it.’

…Now, wait, wait, what? Did Mr. Afolabi just allude to the fact that he will continue hunting and eating bush meat, no matter the threat posed? Wow! One is inclined to think that this reprehensible attitude that Mr. Afolabi is displaying may somehow constitute a weak link in the national effort to contain and overcome Ebola! Maybe if he could, just for a minute, put his seemingly insatiable avarice for, ‘poached monkey’s brain pepper soup,’ ‘smoked bat and armadillo orishirishi’ or anything even remotely edible aside, he would understand that the struggle to protect and save the world population is much more important than satisfying his over-active taste buds and filling his belly!

Here we are, in a race against time, trying to get under control a ginormous threat to humanity and there is the chairman of the Nigerian National Association of Hunters, risking the lives of every single one of us just so that he and his hunters can enjoy a piece of unidentifiable animal part. At this point the Nigerian authorities should take the threat that is posed by the actions of every gluttonous, carnivorous, bush-meat-eating biped very seriously and completely ban the hunting, trade and congestion of bush meat, until further notice. And in the mean time, the burly-men in the black suits and black ray bans from the official ‘relevant authorities’ might just consider paying a little visit to this overzealous meat eater and having a wee word with the ravenous Mr. OlasehindeAfolabi! Maybe if he saw the images of the pain and suffering of Ebola victims or heard the tears of the families of those who have died, he would know how serious this issue is and how reckless his actions are.

Hannatu Musawa is on Twitter:@hanneymusawa

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