by Kolapo Olapoju
Ebola, the deadly virus without a known cure, which was discovered in Africa back in February, has registered its presence in Lagos, Nigeria, and there’s already a prevalent feeling of confusion and heightening fear among the people.
Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year old Liberian man, who was a WASH consultant at the Ministry of Finance has been confirmed dead in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, and since the news got out, many have begun to wonder what to expect.
He arrived in Lagos on Tuesday, 22 July, from Monrovia, Liberia on Asky Airline via Lome. He was later quarantined by officials of the World Health Organisation and the Lagos state health officials, but was eventually reported dead early Friday morning.
Lagosians are already panicky and suspect of everything and everyone around them, especially any situation that seems out of place. Gradually, paranoia will begin to creep in, but still, it gets worse.
The bitter crux of the matter is that the government and Lagosians have not yet faced the obvious nor asked the legitimate questions about the implications of Ebola making its way into Nigeria’s shores before claiming its first victim in one of our hospitals in the state.
Aboard the flight, he was said to have had fever, and was vomiting with diarrhea, and on arrival at the airport, he was reportedly handed over by the airline to the Airport health Services of the Federal ministry of Health, who quickly isolated him and transported him to the hospital to avoid contact with the general public.
The first thing Lagosians should seek to know is how many number of people came in contact with Patrick Sawyer aboard the flight by which he came into the country and where are those people and how many people have those people already mixed and related with. Considering the several easy ways, through which a person can contract Ebola, isn’t there a pretty good chance that he must have infected some people aboard the flight with him. Since the virus could be transferred through sweat, mucous, saliva, and many other ways, couldn’t he have passed it on?
Had he gone into Lagos, and mixed with some people before the Ministry was alerted and he was promptly quarantined. The time window between when he arrived and when he was quarantined could be up to hours, if he had made it into Lagos metropolis. This leads to the issue of a widespread report about him being first treated at First Consultant Hospital, Obalende, by doctors who alerted the ministry of health. Although the hospital denied Patrick Sawyer ever came to them during a telephone conversation with YNaija, what if they weren’t being entirely truthful?
Can we really count on the word of the Ministry of health that he was handed over to them and subsequently quarantined as he stepped foot into Lagos?
If we decide to take their word for it, how quickly and efficiently done was the quarantine process by the Federal ministry of health?
What level of safety measures did LUTH take to get him quarantined? Was he isolated without any form of body contact with the medical officials attending to him?
The Health Minister says measures have been taken by his Ministry, to trace and investigate all the passengers the patient came in with; and has placed all ports of entry under red alert in line with WHO regulations.
Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu also said that they have equipped all government tertiary health institutions in Nigeria to handle any emergency that may arise from the disease and provided supportive drugs and medical consumables at all entry points and have stepped up collaboration with all the States of the federation.
Are these reactionary safety measures not a tad too late? Shouldn’t they have been in place once the Ebola virus got into neighbouring West African countries? The Federal Ministry of health has dropped the bag on this one, and is now making frantic efforts to scoop spilt milk.
If the Ministry is entirely serious and genuine in its attempt to tackle this potentially dangerous situation, it should do the following as soon as possible;
- Investigate First Consultant Hospital in Obalende and test every person that has been to the premises between Tuesday, 22 July and Friday, 25 July.
- Locate all the passengers that travelled with Patrick Sawyer, quarantine and test them as soon as possible.
- Investigate how many people and places the passengers have come in contact with and quarantine and test all such persons as soon as possible.
- Immediately commence a comprehensive and far reaching awareness campaign on the Ebola virus through the media.
Ebola virus is no joke and it seems worse than HIV especially because it has neither cure nor counter-agents. So far, it has killed hundreds of people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak.
The virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging — has infected about 1,048 people and killed an estimated 632 people, according to the numbers on July 17 from the World Health Organisation.
Ebola is both rare and extremely deadly with its symptoms appearing very quickly and killing very fast.
We are already struggling to tackle the menace of Boko-Haram, and we barely have the capability to take on Ebola.
The Federal Government needs to be very proactive in tackling the Ebola virus and the citizens need to be alert and aware of possible danger signs and symptoms.