Vig­i­lance over Ebola

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Fa­tal out­breaks of Ebola dis­ease in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Liberia have gal­vanised fran­tic ef­forts in many other African coun­tries, es­pe­cially in the West, to se­cure their borders and stop it from spread­ing fur­ther. More than i00 people have died in the coun­tries where the dis­ease has sur­faced. In Nigeria, the Min­is­ter of Health, Pro­fes­sor Onye­buchi Chukwu, said that the govern­ment had been ap­praised by the Nige­rian Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol, and of­fi­cials were try­ing to en­sure the virus does not make a land­ing in Nigeria.

News of the out­break of the dis­ease in nearby coun­tries is un­set­tling be­cause the virus has no known cure. The chances of its vic­tims sur­viv­ing an at­tack are less than 10 per cent. The trans­mis­sion mode is mainly through con­tact with af­fected vic­tims or an­i­mals like bats and mon­keys. Some of the high fa­tal­i­ties recorded in many coun­tries oc­cur be­cause of the tra­di­tion of wash­ing corpses be­fore burial. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), Ebola claims its vic­tims within 2 weeks of in­fec­tion. Its symp­toms in­clude high fever, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhoea and haem­or­rhage. The preva­lence of por­ous borders in Nigeria, and the prob­a­bil­ity of in­fected per­sons mak­ing it through them, should be of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to health au­thor­i­ties.

Nigeria is cur­rently bat­tling to con­tain sev­eral deadly ail­ments like malaria, Ac­quired Im­mune De­fi­ciency Syn­drome (AIDS) and Lassa fever; it can­not af­ford additional health chal­lenges such as Ebola mak­ing a pres­ence in the coun­try. It is re­as­sur­ing that health of­fi­cials re­acted quickly to re­fute a me­dia re­port about the ex­is­tence of the virus in Nigeria, in which a stu­dent was de­scribed as ex­hibit­ing Ebola symp­toms in Nasarawa State; but it is im­por­tant that ev­ery sus­pi­cious case is thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated and con­clu­sively dealt with.

Since the dis­ease is spread­ing within coun­tries in the West Africa sub-re­gion, it is es­sen­tial to strictly mon­i­tor move­ment of people from ECOWAS states into Nigeria. Health of­fi­cials at borders should be vig­i­lant to min­i­mize the chances of those al­ready in­fected from slip­ping into the coun­try. Con­sid­er­ing the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, the de­ci­sion by ECOWAS states to jointly tackle the Ebola out­break in some mem­ber states is ap­pro­pri­ate. In a com­mu­niqué at the end of their 31st meet­ing in Ya­mous­soukro, Cote d’Ivoire, Min­is­ters of the Me­di­a­tion and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil au­tho­rized the ECOWAS Com­mis­sion to col­lab­o­rate with rel­e­vant health in­sti­tu­tions in the re­gion to mo­bi­lize stake­hold­ers and re­sources to check the spread of the Ebola. The co­op­er­a­tion of all coun­tries to ef­fec­tively stem the fur­ther spread of the Ebola dis­ease is crit­i­cal. In­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, such as the West African Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and WHO, should do more to pro­vide tech­ni­cal sup­port to af­fected coun­tries so as to de­ter fur­ther spread.

For now what should be the fo­cus in Nigeria is for the var­i­ous min­istries of health at the state and federal lev­els to sen­si­tise the pub­lic about nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing the Ebola dis­ease. People should be made aware of the causes, symp­toms and what to do when these man­i­fest. While an­i­mals like mon­keys and bats are known to be pri­mary car­ri­ers of the virus, it is ad­vis­able to keep away from them. People should also be wary of eat­ing bush meat, a pop­u­lar del­i­cacy in so­cial cir­cles. Be­cause the Ebola virus is highly con­ta­gious, sus­pi­cious cases should be re­ported to the near­est health fa­cil­ity so that the vic­tim will im­me­di­ately be quar­an­tined to de­ter­mine the na­ture of the in­fec­tion. Med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties and per­son­nel should be ad­e­quately pre­pared to cater for po­ten­tial vic­tims. The co­op­er­a­tion of all, in­clud­ing that of health-re­lated non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, is re­quired to stop the dan­ger­ous Ebola virus from reach­ing the shores of Nigeria.

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