Opinion: Wait, what is Nigeria doing to prevent an Ebola virus outbreak?

by Chinedu George Nnawetanma


The scary part of the picture is that the disease has no known cure. 

An erstwhile little-known scourge, the Ebola virus disease has spread like wildfire through the western parts of the West African sub-region since the first case was reported early this year.

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the World Health Organization (WHO), over 400 lives have been lost in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since January 2013, making it the deadliest and largest ever outbreak of the disease since records began.

The scary part of the picture is that the disease has no known cure. The ravaging nature of this family of viruses (which first appeared in Central Africa in 1976) has made it difficult to be studied by scientists. As a result, experiments with it can only be carried out in biosafety level 4 laboratories where the world’s deadliest disease agents are studied.

The viruses that give rise to the EVD, known as the filovirus, are somewhat very transmissible. Anything from a prolonged exposure to the bodily fluids such as sweat, urine, blood, mucous and faeces to the excrement of a carrier leads to contagion of the disease. Carriers can be both humans and animals. Fruits that have come in contact with infected animals, especially bats, can also serve as reservoirs for the viruses.

Despite concerted efforts by experts to check the spread of the disease, the number of reported cases has continued to rise over the past few weeks. Observation of the trend of the outbreak reveals that around 60% of the over 600 infected persons have so far lost their lives. But the fatality rate can be much higher, currently put at 90%. It has been designated a regional disaster worthy of drastic measures.

This now beggars the question of the readiness of the Nigerian government – and people – in ensuring that it doesn’t cross the borders of the country. In a country of more than 170 million people, most of them living in squalid, crammed full conditions with a high level of interstate movement, an outbreak of such a disease is best left to the imagination.

History is a witness to our laissez faire approach to matters of utmost urgency. Too many times have we waited until the eleventh hour to tackle the problems before us. This time around, it mustn’t be business as usual.

Given the highly contagious nature of the disease, all hands must be on deck to see to it that it doesn’t make it into the country or take us by surprise. There have been reported cases of doctors, nurses and other patients fleeing from hospitals in Guinea because of the high number of Ebola virus disease-related deaths over there. Schools have also be shut there, churches and mosques empty, commercial activities brought to a standstill and social interaction almost nonexistent.

It’s everyone’s duty to protect himself or herself and his or her community. Constant hand washing after contact with people is encouraged. The incubation period of the disease can be as little as 48 hours and as long as 21 days. Therefore, someone can be infected with disease, but not yet having any symptom.

The consumption of wild animals sold in local markets, popularly called “bush meat”, should be avoided at all costs. Pigs, monkeys, bats and other wild animals are proven carriers and reservoirs of the Ebola virus.

The government and health workers should not be taught their jobs. In rural clinics, the practice of the reuse of needles should be discouraged. At airports, screening of travellers from neighbouring West African countries for any sign of the disease should be taken more seriously. Travellers to any part of the sub-region, especially the hot spots of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia must be on red alert.

These, along with other precautionary measures, will go a long way in insulating Nigeria from the epidemic. Prevention is easier and cheaper than remedy, and it must be the priority of the government, health workers and everyone at this point in time.

Facts about the Ebola virus disease (EVD) by the WHO:

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.

EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%

EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.

Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

Genus Ebolavirus is 1 of 3 members of the Filoviridae family (filovirus), along with genus Marburgvirus and genus Cuevavirus. Genus Ebolavirus comprises 5 distinct species:

Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)

Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)

Reston ebolavirus (RESTV)

Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)

Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).

BDBV, EBOV, and SUDV have been associated with large EVD outbreaks in Africa, whereas RESTV and TAFV have not. The RESTV species, found in Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, can infect humans, but no illness or death in humans from this species has been reported to date.


EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail