Before We Stop Ebola, Let’s Stop Being Stupid By Bemdoo Hulugh
I adopted this title from a friend’s tweet. As the salt water bath continued to bring out mixed reaction on social media, he tweeted “#stop Ebola, stop being stupid”. The story of Ebola in Nigeria won’t be complete without recounting the stupidity of many people starting with those who woke up in the middle of the night or early hours of the day to bath with salt water.
I was not aware people were bathing with salt water, nobody called me to bath with salt water and I only learnt about it the next morning when it was the only thing being discussed in our cyberspace. After laughing over the incidence and joining other informed social media commentators to educate Nigerians about Ebola, I came out of my room only to discover that everybody in my house including my grandma had taken their bath with salt water to prevent Ebola infection. A friend’s wife was mad at him when he refused to bath with salt water that he just had to comply for the sake of peace. The funny one was about a guy who after an endless argument with the mother on phone, she concluded by saying “if you know am the one that carried you for 9months and breastfeed you, please just stand up and bath with salt water”. The sad aspect was the report in Vanguard newspaper that at least 2 dead and 20 hospitalised as a result of excess quantity of salt and kola nut to prevent Ebola virus disease.
The other stupid people are the government. The first case of Ebola in West Africa was in March this year in Guinea, and then Sierra Leone and Liberia but nobody took precautionary steps to prevent it from coming to Nigeria or be absolutely ready for it if it comes. Till it came and started killing us that the President decided to set up committee. We are lucky that the first case of Ebola in Nigeria is in Lagos where we have a functioning government that will try its best to prevent the disease from spreading (I must say the FG and Lagos state government have so far handled the situation well). Today the normal thing is that every other state is suppose to start preparing, that will not be the case. Every state is just waiting for Ebola to infect someone in the State before they will start reacting. I expect to see government sensitizing the people on radio, television, billboards and even through text messages among others. Since I can’t wait for government to do everything; I will also use this opportunity to educate to the best of my knowledge about Ebola virus disease.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a very dangerous disease. It kills 60-90% of those infected by it and has no cure. It is highly contagious and it is transmitted from human to human through body fluids like blood, sweat, semen, saliva and other bodily fluids. Indirect contact with environments contaminated by fluids can also cause infection. An Ebola victim experience high and sudden fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, joint and muscle ache, stomach pain, lack of appetite, sore throat and bleeding.
It can be prevented by avoiding unnecessary contact and always washing your hands with soap and water. Keeping a clean environment is important as the virus can’t survive disinfectants, detergent, soap, direct sunlight and heat. Fumigate if you have pests in your environment. It is also very important that we report any suspicion in ourselves or others around us to prevent the spread of the disease. We should also avoid dead bush meat as some of them are reservoirs of the virus. The best we can do is preventing the disease since there is no cure. Salt water bath or eating of kola nuts will not prevent or cure ebola. For more personal reading you can check ebolafacts.com, follow CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta on twitter @drsanjaygupta and the official handle of WHO @WHO.
The issue of Ebola also calls to mind the state of our health system and why Africans must wake up. It has been reported that we have only one caregiver attending to all the seven carriers of the Ebola virus, all of whom are said to be in a hall. While WHO is of the opinion that countries with good health systems can contain Ebola outbreak, our health system is poor and we are not prepared for this. Will this be the time we see that everything is wrong with our health sector and fix it? Not likely.
There has been so much outrage as the three known non-Africans to be infected by this deadly disease have been treated with an experimental drug that has saved their lives but West Africans have recorded more than 1000 deaths and still counting. People are already using twitter to demand the drugs be made available with the hashtag “GiveUsTheSerum”. The Makers of ZMapp, the experimental drugs is Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., a California based company which has said the treatment hasn’t been tested on its safety and effectiveness in humans, and it will take them months to produce a modest quantity. WHO said ebola vaccine will be ready in 2015 and it has also been reported that British Pharmaceutical giants, GlaxoSmithKline will start preclinical trials on a vaccine next month. It is understood that so many people are working on a vaccine but none of them is an African company. Our fate is in their hands as we continue to wait on them and tweet “#GiveUsTheSerum”.
For HIV, malaria, polio, now Ebola and all other diseases that have tormented us in this continent, we have depended on people from other continents to solve our problem. The best Liberia could do about Ebola was declare 3days of national fasting and prayers while they wait on those who always come to our rescue to do so. In Nigeria we can brag of many Teaching hospitals and medical colleges but we still always depend on other continents to find treatment for all the diseases killing us. That is why we may continue to count dead bodies till 2015.
As much as I frown at the selective use of the experimental Ebola vaccine on only non-Africans, I see this as an opportunity for us to take the challenge and begin to find the solutions to our problems in our laboratories. Those we always depend on have clearly told us that they care about themselves more. Let us take our life in our hands. Let’s stop being stupid.
Bemdoo Hulugh is an Active citizen from Makurdi
You can also interact with me on Twitter @bumy04