Mass hysteria has become our lot since Sawyer’s sin. We seem not to have anticipated that it was only a matter of time and movement for the dreaded virus to permeate our borders. We did not know that we would let it fly in, have it collapse its charitable bio-terrorist carrier at the Airport, from where it proceeded to primary residence at a private hospital in Obalende. Let’s also remember that this is the first documented case; how about the other hosts who just sauntered in unnoticed?
I think the staff of First Consultant Hospital should be immortalized; they played a conscientious social role in bringing the unfortunate index case to the open. They were quite professional but Ebola needs much more than professional excellence to be contained. That their hospital has been stigmatized in the media is unfortunate. The casualties of every tragedy is innumerable, from people to social institutions to private businesses.
But that their deaths and disabilities are not in vain, we need to attend to pertinent issues concerning the outbreak and our preparedness. We clearly had no protocols or logistics in place. Our preparedness was zero and our efforts to contain it seems so too. Our approach thrives on negative publicity bordering on stigmatization and avoidance; avoidance is essential but it must be measured and effective—it must leave us with our humanity intact. We must tune up our cultural and religious practices to be empirically relevant to the containment of the virus.
The knowledge of virology as a body is scanty. Research is just as difficult, but you know, as our President once said, America knows. The politics of secret serum is not necessarily that of American self-centeredness, it is perhaps the latest neo-colonial tool of economic dominance. Even though viral illnesses are self-limiting, viral hemorrhagic fevers proceed rapidly and are fatal. Are they natural means of population control? Will medicine conquer them? Questions for another discourse.
A little into the scanty knowledge about Ebola and its transmissibility: Health workers and care-givers of the infected victims carry a huge burden. Contact with infected materia—semen, saliva, blood, sweat, urine, faeces—makes one into a primary contact. A primary contact can function seemingly like a vector; s/he can transmit the material to other people with ambulant ease and they, by the virtue of this transaction, become secondary contacts.
It is the fear of primary contact that has run the society wild with refutations and conjectures about the natural profile of Ebola virus. Bitter Kola is known for anti-viral properties but it does not cure viral illnesses. Brine is a hostile medium for micro-organisms and that is about it. Rivabirin prophylaxis works for another viral hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, not Ebola. But if this information was put in the public by our health organizations, we will not be having this conversation and people will not be dying in plateau state. Oh, I forgot, NMA is in its second month of industrial strike action. It is pitiful.
Ebola virus, the death named for a river in Zaire, is an international emergency but it did not just become so. Nigeria as a country is guilty of negligence but what has happened has happened. The way forward is the way onward.