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Confusion, Apathy As Fear of Ebola Virus Spreads Nationwide
Date Posted: 11/Aug/2014
As the news of the deadly Ebola virus disease spread state governments have started massive sensitisation campaigns to curb the spread of the disease. Following reported infection of the female doctor who treated the late Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian who brought Ebola virus into the shores of Nigeria, and the news of the death of one of the nurses who treated him, Nigerians have started heeding to the advice of maintaining hygienic lifestyle.
In Lagos, where the virus first berthed, the people have taken to the use of bitter-kola as a way of reducing the spread of the virus. This is consequential to the advice credited to a professor of pharmacology, Maurice Iwu, who posited that bitter-kola is useful in the treatment of flu.
At the popular Bariga market, the price of bitter-kola has suddenly skyrocketed. This was disclosed by Mrs Jumoke Oso, a bitter-kola seller at the market. According to her, since the rumour broke last Saturday, people have been rushing the kola, leading to high demand and price increase. She however said that they still sold at the normal price for now. This demand has led to the scarcity of the product in the market now.
Also, the elite in the state are taking to the use of hand gels which have antibiotic elements in them, making these brands of cream more expensive in the market now. Hand gels, which normally sold in some stores, seemed to have almost disappeared from the shelves with increasing demand. Normally priced within N200 and N230, the increasing demand for the product has made it almost hard to find these days. The product became scarce at the Ikeja Shopping Mall as most of the stores there did not have hand gels on their shelves.
Likewise, some other stalls visited showed that the price had increased slightly. The development has also led to a new product called "Ebola Cleansing Hand Gel" priced at N600 and purportedly sold at the Alaba International Market in Ojo axis of Lagos. The advert for the purchase of the product floods some social media.
At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos for example, port health personnel have been deployed to the two arrival halls for the purpose of testing arriving passengers for signs and symptoms of the deadly virus. Passengers, especially those coming in from West African countries, are processed first by port health personnel who carry out necessary tests on every passenger with special devices that do not permit physical contact. Those found to be free of any signs or symptoms would proceed to the immigration area for other formalities.
A holding area has also been provided at the tarmac for suspected cases, while key cases are expected to be isolated in a designated area outside the airport for further examinations and treatments. A customs officer who pleaded anonymity at the Seme border said, "So far, there has not been any report of Ebola outbreak in Benin Republic or even Togo. It is not even in Ghana yet. I think, the concern to close the border will become more realistic when countries like Benin and Togo become culpable countries. But for now, movement is still as usual."
Nollywood star, Jim Ikechukwu Esomugha, popularly known as Jim Iyke, has cleared the air on his decision to leave Liberia due to the Ebola scourge. The actor made headlines recently over a post he made on Instagram about the outbreak of Ebola while he was in Liberia. "I have been screened where and when necessary along with the other passengers and I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to be vigilant and help contain the outbreak by following the advice of the local and international medical professionals and government officials," he added.
In its bid to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Kwara State, the government has concluded arrangements to train health workers on how to recognise and manage the disease. Speaking on the preventive measures the government has put in place to check the spread of Ebola virus in the state, the chairman of the Primary Healthcare Development Agency in the state, Mrs Asiat Saka, explained that the planned training will assist health workers to identify suspected Ebola cases and know how to report to their various clinics, adding that the government was planning to procure personal preventive equipment which health workers can wear in managing cases and investigating Ebola virus in the state. The chairman said that Kwarans would be encouraged to desist from eating bush meats, warning those that eat bats and monkeys to desist from eating them, so as to avoid contacting the disease. She advised the people to engage in frequent hand washing with soap which she noted forms parts of personal hygiene.
Meanwhile, the chairman of LUBCON Group of companies, Alh. Jani Ibrahim, had about three weeks ago kick-started the awareness campaign on Ebola virus in Ilorin, the state capital. At the awareness campaign programme, professor of epidemiology and community health science, University of Ilorin, Tanimola Akande, advised Nigerians to shun the consumption of bush meat, wash their hands regularly, while health workers should also start wearing protective kits when attending to patients. The don, who is the national president, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, said, "Ebola is a very deadly disease. We have been talking about HIV/AIDS, but Ebola is deadlier. It's an African problem."
Also, a one-time clinical virologist at Houston, Texas in the United States, Dr Olajide Agbede, called for efficient surveillance system that will include mounting a quarantine system for animal and human beings at the points of entry into the country, while recommending that persons, animal products, fertilizers and animal dung from countries where cases of Ebola have been reported should be screened at the point of entry into Nigeria.
Also, the Kwara State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) through a statement by the deputy chairman, Dr Kunle Olawepo, and the deputy secretary, Dr Ahmed AbdulKadir, urged the people to cultivate regular hand washing habit with soap and water, while thorough cooking of all foods, especially bush meats.
In Kogi State, the government has also embarked on sensitization of the people. The state commissioner for health, Dr Idris Omede, advised the people of the state to adhere to high standard of personal and environmental hygiene at all times, stressing that the people should try as much as possible to avoid bush meat. He cautioned health personnel to take the virus with utmost care and highest level of precaution, calling on them to notify professionals immediately samples of the virus are noticed, and ensure they put on personal protective equipment (PPE).
Meanwhile, the Benue State government has activated surveillance as well as mapping out strategies to check the spread of the virus in the state. The state governor, Gabriel Suswam, disclosed that the "minister of health requested states to take certain measures to prevent outbreak, and we have already done that. So, by any chance if we have an incident, we can handle it without infecting those who handle the disease." According to Suswam, government has already started educating people on the precautionary measures, and have put in place machinery to handle cases if there is any outbreak. This is just as churches issued out notices of warning to their congregations, urging them to control their movements and be careful on how they relate with one another.
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in the state has urged its members to ensure proper care in handling patients with symptoms of diseases. Its chairman, Dr Steven Hwande, advised medical personnel to watch out for patients with symptoms of fever and body rashes, saying the outbreak of the pandemic is yet to be confirmed in the state.
Plateau State government announced that it has trained 37 surveillance officers from the 17 local government areas in the state on ways of detecting the dreaded Ebola virus. Chief epidemiologist at the ministry of health, Dr Raymond Jurit, disclosed this in Jos, the state capital. According to him, the trainees are expected to train others in their respective local government areas. He added that the state intends to train clinical officers in its major hospitals on ways to curtail the virus, but is presently constrained by the on-going strike action by medical doctors. He listed lack of testing equipment and personal protective equipment as major challenges facing the state.
Also, a medical consultant with the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr Pokop Wushipa Bupwatda, who is also the NMA chairman in the state, said even while on strike doctors have been humanly sympathetic to the plight of Ebola victims. According to him, despite the strike, they have resolved even at the national level to attend to people in times of emergency, like bomb blast, Ebola and other diseases that threaten human existence.
In Akure, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the dreaded virus in the state, the Ondo State government has rolled out its sensitisation machinery to educate the people on the dreaded disease, while selecting three centres for the treatment of the disease, known as isolated wards, in each of the three senatorial districts of the state.
The state commissioner for health, Dr Dayo Adeyanju, said that the government will ensure that it prevents the spread of the virus in the state, adding that a sensitisation meeting with public and private health practitioners has been held on how to prevent the spread of the virus in the state. The centres are located in each of the three senatorial districts of the state, at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo; State Specialist Hospital, Akure, and General Hospital, Okitipupa. He also affirmed that enough equipment had been provided in the hospitals to curtail any occurrences.
Adeyanju said the government has also embarked on massive sensitisation programmes through mass media to ensure that all the people of the state are well informed about the Ebola scourge. "We have produced and circulated massive posters around the state, detailing facts on Ebola hemorrhagic fever and preventive measures."
In a proactive effort to combat Ebola virus, the Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has said that the state with its large population has been on red alert since the news broke out two months ago. In a media address, Governor Kwankwaso said the state government has set up a response team committee of related medical experts and other required professionals, adding that the committee first report was received by the state government. According to him, based on the report, the state has taken quick measures in ensuring that it gets prepared in case of Ebola virus breakout, while confirming that the government had procured the needed items to face the challenge of the Ebola breakout. Kwankwaso said the state government has purchased 33 protective personal equipment and had set aside a medical facility for possible quarantine of victims, stating that the state government is collaborating with the federal authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Kano, and border patrol officials within the state.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Ebola response committee in the state, Dr Nasiru Mahmoud, said his committee was set up by the governor since the breakout of the Ebola virus in West Africa and Lagos. Mahmoud said the committee has carried out activities of mobilizing the epidemic preparedness committee and sensitisation of the health workers to avoid repeating the Lagos case where a nurse and a doctor got infected with the virus. He added that the committee has identified needed working materials.
A concerned citizen, Baba Salihi, has described the virus as scary and dangerous considering the way it kills with speed and should be feared. He cautioned citizens to take the message of prevention very seriously and report cases of similar symptoms immediately to hospitals. Also, a residence of Dorayi quarters, Bashir Bash-Kala, noted with concern that the Ebola virus can cause preposterous consequences if messages of prevention were not speedily and seriously conveyed to rural population as well as remote city parts. A mother, Hajiya Binta Yakasai (Gwaggo), called for prayers for Allah's protection and at the same time urged mothers to examine their children very well and report any illness to medical facilities.
Following the outbreak of the disease, Oyo State government has taken sensitization programme to religious houses, traditional healers, and community members. The state commissioner for health, Dr Muyiwa Gbedegesin, while speaking on the preparedness of the government, added that the exercise would also be through airing of jingles and distribution of posters. He assured the people that the government has taken some steps to ensure the prevention of an Ebola disease outbreak in the state, disclosing that the government was working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the ministries of health of neighbouring states to prevent the outbreak of the disease.
"All the disease surveillance and notification officers in all the local government areas have been alerted and sensitised to promptly respond to the outbreak," he said, adding that a sensitization programme had been organised for a similar purpose.
He was optimistic that the public enlightenment would prevent Ebola disease from spreading in the state, saying that its causes, modes of transmission and steps to be taken in case of outbreak, had already commenced in form of sensitization of traditional healers, religious and community members, as well as through airing of jingles and distribution of posters. Gbedegesin highlighted the signs and symptoms of the disease to include onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, conjunctivitis, hiccups, dyspepsia followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and rash. While assuring the people of the effective monitoring of the situation, he, however, urged them to take any suspected case to any nearby public health facility for adequate care.
A medical personnel at the University College Hospital (UCH), Mrs Rachael Fagbohun, expressed regret over the outbreak of the disease, saying that the earlier a vaccine for the cure is available, the better. She called on government at all levels and stakeholders in the health sector to do all within their purvey to curb the spread of the disease and provide a cure.
As most states of the federation are working very hard to curtail the spread of Ebola virus in their domains, the Ekiti State government is not lagging behind as well, as measures are being put in place to avert the spread. The government, non-governmental organisations and the people seemed aware of the risk involved in contracting the deadly viral disease and are taking steps to avoid it. The National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) embarked on Ebola virus awareness programme in the state. At one of its sensitisation programmes held at the popular Oja-Oba in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, the agency while urging the people to take their personal hygiene seriously, advised meat sellers to always cover their goods in order not to expose the buyers to the viral disease.
The commissioner for health in Ekiti state, Professor Olusola Fasubaa, while calling on the residents of the state to be vigilant and report any suspicious cases to health facility nearest to them, said a committee has been put in place by the government to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Such cases, according to him, should be reported at the Okemesi, Ifaki and Ode Ekiti general hospitals spread across the three senatorial districts of the state.
The commissioner, who disclosed that the committee comprised of various relevant stakeholders, said death certificate must be obtained for all corpses from the government health facilities, as security agencies have been authorised to ensure proper screening of corpses entering or leaving the state.
Fasubaa listed vomiting with or without diarrhea and bleeding with or without dehydration as some of the symptoms of the diseases.
Telephone numbers of the heads of the state health ministry, hospitals management board, director of disease control agency and permanent secretaries were released to the public in event of emergency concerning the Ebola virus outbreak.
A food seller at the Oja-Oba market in Ado-Ekiti, Mrs Feyisayo Adekunke, said she avoids body contacts with people ever since the outbreak of the disease was reported. According to her, she also shuns large gatherings to avoid undesired contacts with people.
In Osun State, the commissioner for health, Dr Temitope Ilori, said the state has not recorded any case of the dreaded Ebola virus in the state, stating that a media interaction organised by the ministry of health to sensitize the people of Osun about the virus was ongoing. The commissioner said the press conference became imperative for people to be aware that the virus is real and endeavour to know their status, stressing that efforts are on by the Federal Government and Lagos State government to stem the tide.
She charged the people to report any case of fever that comes with bleeding for necessary action in terms of isolation or quarantine to be taken. The commissioner stated that protective garments like gloves, face masks, aprons and other items have been provided for workers. Meanwhile, the state broadcasting station is already sensitising the public on the symptoms of the dreaded disease and the necessary precautions. Religious organisations are already organizing special prayer sessions to stem the trend of the spread of the virus. Although the commissioner in charge of health has given Osun State a clean bill of health on the virus, yet medical practitioners in the state who are conscious of its penetration to Nigeria have started using the materials provided by the ministry of health such as gloves and others to prevent further spread of the infection.
In the Southeastern part of the country, the story is similar. The fear of contracting Ebola virus has become the beginning of wisdom. Several people in the region have become wary of handshake. Not a few in the region have replaced the practice of handshake with what they describe as "knuckle" greeting, a practice whereby both sides knock each other with their hands closed. But this may not be a solution to preventing the dreaded disease from spreading.
The morbid fear among residents in the five states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo, that the dreaded disease might spread to the region has led governments in these states to come up with proactive measures to forestall any outbreak of the disease in their respective states. 
. In Imo state, the official position of the state government on the issue is that citizens should avoid handshakes to avoid contracting the Ebola virus. While speaking in Owerri, the state commissioner for health, Dr Edward Ihejirika, explained that constant washing of hands after a handshake or physical contact can prevent people from being infected with the virus, while advising residents to avoid travelling to areas where the disease has been detected. 
. And from Ebonyi State comes the report that though no case of the outbreak of the disease has been reported in the state, the state government is collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health, National Emergency Response Team, and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to ensure the prevention and control of the disease in the event that it spreads into the state. State commissioner for health, Dr Sunday Nwangele, announced that the government had started the reactivation of the rapid response team for effective operations. Nwangele urged health workers to wear protective devices in the hospital environment, while the people should take precautionary measures, such as regular washing of hands, as well as avoiding contacts with wild animals.
. In Enugu, the state commissioner for health, Dr George Eze, disclosed that no case of Ebola disease has been recorded, though he emphasised that measures had been put on ground to guard against the spread of the disease. "For now, we have not established any Ebola case in Enugu State, but we are guarding against it. We want to let you know that we have the manpower, the muscle, and our specialists have put heads together to manage the situation," he said. "Governor Sullivan Chime has always reiterated the need for a healthy state; that is why he has empowered the ministry down the line."
. Meanwhile, the Anambra State government has described as false, the rumours that a corpse of a victim of the deadly Ebola virus was last week brought into the state from Liberia and deposited in a hospital at Nkwelle-Ezunaka community, in Oyi local government area of the state by his family relatives.
However, Professor Allison Anadi, who is leading a medical team, said that his team would not extend its medical services to two communities in the state, Mkwelle-Ezunaka in Oyi and Nando in Anambra East, following rumours of the spread of Ebola virus to the two communities.
Meanwhile, the state commissioner for information, Mr Tony Onyima, through a phone interview said that there was no case of Ebola virus in the state, stating that the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, had already confirmed that the state was totally free from the virus. He however said that the state government had embarked on sensitising the people through radio and television jingles about the disease and how to avoid contracting it.
According to some of the jingles, the Ebola virus can be contracted through bodily contacts with someone who is seriously infested with it. Also, the people are warned to observe personal hygiene by always washing their hands after shaking people and avoid sharing wears, especially with strangers.
By Abubakar Salihi, Adebayo Waheed, Aronke Olayiwola, Bukola Idowu Abdullahi Olesin, Joshua Dada, M Achor Abimaje, Mathias Nwogu, Mike Ubani, Sam Egwu, Samuel Abulude, Solomon Ayado, Stanley Uzoaru, Tope Fayehun


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