“At first sign of crisis, the ignorant don’t panic because they don’t know what’s going on, and then later they panic precisely because they don’t know what’s going on.”
― Jarod Kintz
My lords, the case before us this week is that of EBOLA! Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), this is a virus that has recently made itself a celebrity following the bad news of its outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra-Leone. The entrance of the infected Liberian on Nigerian soil has done nothing more than to rekindle the fire of fear and anxiety amongst our people. The level of panic is so high that if care is not taken, Ebola virus will just have to come later to sing the dirges of people already killed merely by its anticipation.
Jarod kintz noted that “At first sign of crisis, the ignorant don’t panic because they don’t know what’s going on, and then later they panic precisely because they don’t know what’s going on.” This is the exact situation with our people. Many of them think Ebola is a new disease, whereas The Ebola hemorrhagic fever has been with humanity for about four decades! In all those years, nobody raised an eyebrow because they did not know about the disease and now that the virus is stretching its claws towards our land, eyebrows are highly raised not for anything but the same ignorance! Rumours are being peddled that the fatality rate of this disease is over 90% where as the actual average fatality rate according to history is far below 50%.
Furthermore, despite the widely circulated belief that the virus is air-borne like influenza and other fast-spreading diseases, an infected person walking around is not infectious to other people. The virus is contagious or can be transmitted only when there is physical contact with corpses of Ebola victims or with victims in advanced stages of infection, and via consumption of infected meats. So, why the fuss and unnecessary myths created around the disease?
It has also been reported that schools have been closed down in Liberia and threats and rumours of issuance of ban on the infected countries have been flying around. It’s just like a case of going thirsty to prevent a flood; proper sensitization is the first aid to be applied at this present moment.
It should be noted at this stage my lords that I am not saying that we should under-rate this deadly disease neither am I advocating that we should trivialize it. What I am saying is that the whole issue is becoming over-hyped and that unnecessary fear like a seed has been planted in the hearts of the people. My lords, there is a clear difference between educating and entertaining, what the media has succeeded in doing is to entertain and water our seed of fear with loads of news stories and gruesome pictures of dying patients without corresponding educative articles to enlighten us, the populace about the virus. And as you can see my lords, the populace, out of a dire need to build a defensive mechanism against their ignorance of this disease, have started to create jokes and funny electronic-wall papers about the virus.
In addition to the above, my lords, I think that we have more things to worry about at this moment than a virus sitting somewhere in the hilly terrains of Liberia. My lords, the total death-toll as a result of the Ebola outbreak in June in all the three countries presently experiencing the disease is nothing compared to the number of lives that have been claimed in terrorist attacks in the month of June and July alone! My lords, the Ebola Virus we ought to be concerned about is that of terrorist actions on our land. It is the one that claimed the lives of 40 young persons in the Mubi bombings, the virus that claimed the lives of 200 civilians in Gwoza massacre, the 45 lives sacrificed in Dille or the killings of 21 civilians in Sabon-Gari? The list goes on and we have decided not to see that as a deadly virus that needs to be attacked and cured.
Finally, my lords, as I’ve said earlier that I am not arguing that we should disregard the virus and all its bad news, what I am saying is that we are already over-hyping it considering the fact that no Nigerian is even affected yet. And it is highly shameful that though virtually all Nigerians know the name “Ebola” now, most of us don’t have sufficient information about the virus. What we need now is a proper sensitization and moderate enlightenment of the populace about the virus as to its causes, prevention, symptoms and management. My lords, all these “ebola-virus jokes” we are sharing on tweeter and facebook will not help us o…I rest my case.
NO, IT IS NOT!
“All ailments are equal but some are more equal than others”
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States (1801-1809) and author of the Declaration of Independence, a man recognized as one of the most brilliant individuals in history, did not only feature in history, he understood “history”. In his letter to John Adams (1735-1826), second president of the United States (1797-1801), he stated that “a morsel of history is a thing so rare as to be always valuable”.
My Lords, victims of the paucity of thought who opine that the Ebola virus has been given too much attention, are obviously far from the corridors of history. For a disease, that was first discovered in 1976, to rear its head again, one should know that the attention given to it at its discovery was not sufficient. The Ebola virus is not overrated; present realities are results of poor inference from the past.
History is filled with proof of how diseases can wipe out a people if sufficient attention, geared towards preventing and finding cures, is not paid to them. In 541 AD, the Justinian plague, which was characterized by hand necrosis, spread from China Constantinople. The plague, named after Emperor Justinian of Constantinople, who also got infected but survived it, was recorded to have killed up to ten thousand a day at its peak.
The influenza epidemic that occurred in 1918-1919 took more lives than the First World War, claiming about twenty million to forty million lives. Perhaps diseases are more deadly than war; in two years, a fifth of the world’s population was infected. An estimated 675,000 Americans died of the influenza, about ten times as many as those who died in the First World War.
History bears records of various diseases and the havoc they wrecked due to little or no effort aimed at prevent their spread. My lords, rather than play down the Ebola virus, comprehensive sensitization should be done by government at all tiers, health-based bodies and individuals alike, especially in clustered communities like ours. The Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, has laid a good precedent by releasing a bulletin, sensitizing the community on the nature of the virus.
Below is an excerpt from a publication on the website of the World Health Organization, www.who.int, stating necessary information one needs to know about the virus:
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
Reducing the risk of Ebola infection in People:
In the absence of effective treatment and a human vaccine, raising awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death. In Africa, during EVD outbreaks, educational public health messages for risk reduction should focus on several factors: Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption. Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients, particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand-washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home. Communities affected by Ebola should inform the population about the nature of the disease and about outbreak containment measures, including burial of the dead. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.”
Finally, my Lord, the Ebola virus is not overrated; rather it re-echoes the need for us to pay more attention to our health as a people.
CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.
EBOLA; AN OVERRATED DISEASE?
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