If the Ebola virus disease (EVD) has come to Nigeria for any reasons, it must have been to teach Nigerians two important lessons. One is to always observe orderliness and the other is to ensure good personal hygiene and cleanliness, which they say is next to ‘Godliness’. I want to believe that Ebola has borrowed Patrick Sawyer as its carrier to teach Nigerians, in one of the hardest ways, how to keep good hygiene and be more organized in all of their affairs.
Since the news of the first EVD infection broke in Nigeria and until now, we have seen drama in the manner people behave when it comes to safeguarding themselves against the killer virus while they go about their daily businesses. In a bid to combat the virus, some have attempted bathing and drinking salty water while some were reported to have consumed bitter kola as if they were sure it cures EVD.
Ebola is very deadly and fierce, especially due to its mode of transmission, which can be through contact with victims’ blood, sweat, saliva, mucus, urine, faeces and other bodily fluids. With this mode of transmission, if any community should be at high risk for Ebola pandemic, it is such that exists in Nigeria where majority of the population cohabit in jam-packed apartments with communal toilets and bathrooms and even kitchens. Many don’t have access to toilets not to talk of keeping proper sanitation whereby urinating or defecating at every available space in nearby bushes of shrubs. In such instances, how can you distinguish between an ‘Ebola patient’s urine or faeces?
Bush meat – another probable way that Ebola is being transmitted, is a special delicacy for some people in Nigeria. But with the popularity of EVD, many have shunned eating bush meat. Those who love to eat ‘Suya’ (barbecue beef), a popular snack in Nigeria, are also being teased that they might contract the virus thus avoiding it. Many Nigerians also depend on ‘Buka’ (roadside food vendors) for daily supply of their meals. No one really inspect these vendors to ensure food is prepared to acceptable standard. Without batting an eye, Nigerians buy and drink home-made beverages such as tea, cocoa drinks, ‘sobo’ or ‘pito’ (hibiscus/rosette flower drink), ‘kunu’, ‘wara’ ‘fura de nunu’ (all cow milk products). Now tell me, if Ebola should be endemic in Nigeria, why do we think people won’t contract the virus in large number if they don’t take extra precautions?
But one thing to note is the news filtering out that a good number of people now appreciate cleaning and grooming themselves on a daily basis while they also avoid shoving and pushing that we regularly witness at bus parks and market places, especially in Lagos and other big cities. There have also been news of how Lagosians now queue up and file up in an orderly manner when boarding commercial vehicles just to avoid contact with the next person and how people avoid shaking hands but chose to salute each other instead in the manner our brothers from the North will usually great their chieftains saying ‘rankadede Alhaji’ while holding up one arm, with raised fist, in the other. Even most of our leaders now prefer that way of greeting too.
It is a good thing that the virus is still not anywhere near being an epidemic in Nigeria as cases were only confirmed in Lagos State. However, the proactive reaction of citizens (both comical and seriously) and how contacts and victims are being identified, except for the few non-conformists like the nurse who escaped to Enugu from Lagos quarantine centre, is also reassuring and encouraging that the virus has not come home to roost in my beloved country.
Meanwhile, according to latest news, those in isolation and under quarantine are not receiving the quality of care that is expected and as being claimed by the government. Families of those affected recently called a press conference in Lagos to lament the deplorable condition under which their sick relatives are kept. This is highly despicable to say the least. It shows the depth of decadence in the running of Nigeria as a country and the ineptitude of those at the helm of the affairs. Any sensible government, realising the susceptibility of its people, will rise to the occasion and ensure the virus does not have a foothold in its backyard.
As the world follow Ebola updates with bated breath and openly wish for it to be contained soon and for a cure or vaccine protecting against EVD become a reality, I will implore Nigerians to seriously consider keeping good hygiene and cleanliness; as well as ensuring proper sanitary health aside avoiding contact with any person sick with those symptoms similar to EVD. They should also ensure to carry on with proper hygiene education beyond Ebola and ensure this is passed down to generations yet unborn as I believe that there is a great lesson in Ebola’s spread to Nigeria.
Official daily updates about EVD and its symptoms and mode of spread by the World Health Organisation (WHO) can be viewed at http://www.who.int/csr/don/2014_08_19_ebola/en/