Ebola: Living in bondage

on   /   in Ebola Outbreak 2:57 am   /   Comments

AKINGBOLA Adebiyi operates a first class boutique in Lagos. He specialises in hand-picked materials imported from neighbouring African countries and Europe. His boutique also boasts of original Italian clothes, suits, shoes and handbags.

His personal dress sense is mesmerising. He travels frequently across the world to pick clothing materials for his boutique but Akingbola is not too keen about travelling anywhere for now. Even the clothes he imported recently are still at the airport awaiting clearance. His delay in getting his goods cleared is not far-fetched.

Fear of Ebola: In his business plaza located somewhere at Isolo, Akingbola told some of his customers that he is not too keen about travelling to any country now “until this Ebola thing gets clearer”. Assuring them of a regular supply of their preferred clothings, Akingbola lamented his challenges.

Late  Ebola virus disease victim, Patrick Sawyer's wife, Decontee with her daughter

Late Ebola virus disease victim, Patrick Sawyer’s wife, Decontee with her daughter

“Just imagine this situation. This Liberian knew he had contact with a victim as he attended his own sister’s burial who died from it. Why did he chose to come to Nigeria? Why not another country? “Some of the goods I ordered from United kingdom have landed at the airport but the truth is that I cannot go for them now. You know our people. As this Liberian slumped at the airport, do you know how many good-spirited Nigerians that rushed to give him a helping hand?

Some must have helped him remove his suit, his shirt and his shoes and stockings. Some must have helped him remove his tie and singlet and whatever needed to be removed to enable him recover strength.

Second-hand goods

These kind Nigerians might have done so at their own detriment but God forbid.” Akingbola is not sure when to resume his travels as he fears even getting as far as the international airport. He said he is not ready to take chances.

Theresa Martins, another business woman who travels to Equatorial Guinea and other nearby African countries has been mandated to change her line of business. She deals in second hand goods most of which she buys from nearby countries but in a chat, she told Vanguard that her husband has forbidden her from travelling. “ Even to travel to Cotonou and buy rice and other things are forbidden because my husband would not allow it. He is ready to bring our marriage to an end because of this and would prefer that my children and I die of hunger than have me take the risk of endangering the whole family by exposing myself to the danger of body contacts with strangers. He even suggested bringing back our daughter who is schooling at Ghana despite the fact that no outbreak of Ebola is recorded in Ghana. I’m tired of all these.”

Over the years, the African continent, has been recording an outbreak of one disease or the other. From bird flu to lassa fever; from malaria to syphilis, meningitis, polio, tuberculosis, tetanus, measles, whooping cough, diarrhea, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS. The African continent seems to have become a dump site of diseases and the international health organisations have been on their toes, formulating ways to contain these diseases.

Ebola virus is just the latest addition: What used to be known as Zaire ebola virus, or EBOV, which causes an extremely severe hemorrhagic fever in humans, now known as Ebola has taken the centre stage, killing people within days and dangerously infecting the others.

Rainforest animals

This viral illness that comes from direct contact with infected living or dead rainforest animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines kills almost everyone who is infected.

Ebola,a name derived from the Ebola River in Democratic Republic of Congo was first reported in 1976 and later in Sudan. With the death of Liberian-born Patrick Sawyer, the casualty record has risen to 673 deaths across countries like Guinea which recorded 427 cases and 319 deaths; Liberia which recorded 249 cases and 129 deaths; Sierra Leone which recorded 525 cases and 224 deaths; and Lagos which recently recorded a death of a visiting Liberian.

Nigerians are weary of transmittable diseases and are worried about so many don’ts about life. “ The whole thing is tiring. We seem to be forever avoiding one thing or the other,” said Vincent Okoli. “Very soon it would become mandatory for us to stop rearing children because we would need condoms to sleep with our wives. There is always an outbreak of one thing or the other and one can hardly live freely.

Visiting our villages

“It is true”, agreed his companion Fabian Ibe. “How many things can we avoid? This thing can get to a point where it will become one person per compound and we would stop having neighbours or visiting our villages. As you and I are talking, they have given the disease one big name in my village and the story being peddled is that it’s people living in Lagos that are carrying and spreading it. If we are not careful, they would soon start rejecting us at home. My aged parents have already warned me to bring my children home for them to continue training them so that we don’t endanger ourselves or risk my entire lineage being wiped out. The rumour in my village is that many people in Lagos have it and its still spreading.”

Itoro Obong from Akwa Ibom told Vanguard that her mother who was planning to come to Lagos for a visit has rescheduled the visit till further notice. “I cannot force her. She had all of us in Lagos before retiring to the village after her retirement from Nigerian Ports Authority. If she said she is not visiting Lagos because of Ebola, there is nothing I can do. After all, man must die of something.”

Those who don’t know about Ebola: In spite of the media hype about this disease, there are still people who do not know of its existence. This means that sensitization should be done in local languages to sensitize Nigerians of the new epidemic.

Sensitizing Nigerians

Samaila Maje has been living in the low density area of Lagos but on Thursday morning when this writer encountered him, he said he has not heard of the sickness. An attempt by the writer’s companion to communicate with him in Hausa language yielded the same response. “I never hear am,” he said in pidgin.” A bi na HIF?” But it’s not only Samaila that has not heard of Ebola disease or of anybody dying from it.

Mama Chinasa who operates a mama-put joint where a lot of okada riders from neighbouring African countries come to eat breakfast said she has never heard of Ebola. An attempt to educate her yielded no positive results as she shrugged her shoulders and moved on with serving her customers. To this class of people who deal with local foreigners, there is a serious danger due to ignorance.

Mama Chinasa had earlier admitted that rice was being supplied to her by a customer who purchases from neighbouring countries and as long as it is cheaper, nothing else counts. As the story of the death of the Ebola victim spreads, one family in Onitsha was particularly agitated when this writer called.

“We don’t know what is Ebola and we don’t want to know but our fears are for our daughter and her husband who are living in Guinea. Our daughter just graduated from University of Benin and her husband came home for their wedding from Guinea.

After the wedding, my daughter followed him back to Guinea for them to start procreating early. I have been told they are safe but based on what we have been hearing and the fact that this disease is well spread in Guinea, you can imagine how we feel. I wish my daughter and her husband will relocate to Nigeria because life is safer here than in some of these African countries. We cannot lie to you. We are scared.”

Another Lagosian, Ebenezer Uti, also expressed worry over his brother living in Liberia where the spread of Ebola is high. “I’ve known about the existence of the disease but I didn’t know it poses such a high threat to life.

My brother has been living in Liberia since year 2000 and he comes to Nigeria very often to buy goods which are shipped to Liberia for supply. We have never discussed Ebola and I never saw it as something serious until I began to hear about it in a different light.”

Ebenezer did not know the disease is infectious because he hardly reads newspapers and when at home, hardly watches television except Nollywood films. When told that the virus is passed from one human to another, carried in blood and bodily fluids and secretions and also in bedsheets, clothes or other surfaces that a sick person has touched, he looked worried before asking, “ is it worse than HIV/AIDS?”

Health workers

From records across countries where the disease is dominant, health workers are at the highest risk especially those who take care of Ebola victims. To avoid being infected, these endangered specie must wear full protective clothing, face masks and goggles before attending to victims.

A Medical Laboratory student of the University of Lagos named Olamide said he does not see infectious diseases as a challenge. “There must be a way to handle them without one getting infected. As a matter of fact, it is serious issues like these that inspired me to study Medical Laboratory Science. I don’t believe I can contact an infection in the course of my training or in the course of doing my job when I graduate.

“My only concern is that the symptoms are the same as that of any sickness and one may not know when to be extra careful. For instance, someone who has malaria will experience fever, muscle pain, weakness of body and the person who has Ebola virus will experience similar symptoms including sore-throat, vomiting and diarrhoea and in the case of Ebola, that raises the chances of the sick man or woman infecting somebody else.

Internal and external bleeding

From what I read, the kidney and liver can also be affected and there can be both internal and external bleeding, which is why it was originally called Ebola hemorrhagic fever. But you will also know that blood sugar can also damage the kidney.”

Another Medical student, Efosa told Vanguard that he intends to go deeper into the study of medicine. “Most of these strange diseases originate from apes and monkeys just like HIV and now Ebola. Bird flu is from birds and I wonder, why are animals spreading diseases to us? I have told my parents I would go into medical research and that is that.”But Pastor Williams of Royal Priesthood Assembly perceives these diseases as signs of the end time. “It’s divine judgment. It’s God’s punishment when people commit all kinds of sins including sleeping with animals. People are not satisfied with homosexuality and lesbianism which are becoming rampant and they have added bestiality to it. Women allow dogs to make love to them and men have sex with anything that has a hole. These are the end times and a clear indication that the world is coming to an end.
“ Apart from HIV/AIDS and others, we are dealing with yet another disease that has no cure and little treatment. The worse is that anything that is infectious or transmitted through body contact spreads fast because you cannot tell a woman who is in love not to have sex with her man. She would prefer to die with him.”

Thankfully, Nigeria is taking pro-active steps towards controlling the virus. In as much there are no drugs to treat the disease yet, there are divisive ways of controlling the spread through intensive supportive care, intravenous fluids or oral rehydration salts. Patients are advised be kept in isolation and their nurses and visitors are also advised wear full protective suits.

From medical records, it has not been possible to find drugs for the treatment of viral diseases from animals. Since HIV/AIDS entered the system decades ago, medical researchers are still battling to find complete cure for it.

With Ebola joining the fray of incurable diseases, it is advisable for Nigerians to mind what they eat especially as it has been observed that the viral reservoir exists in animals. Lovers of bush meat should thread softly to avoid eating infected animals and spreading the disease. Restaurant operators, mama puts operators and people who love all manner of meat should eat carefully and be sure of what they are eating.

Chief Chinwendu from Anambra State confessed he loves bush meat and insisted the ones in Nigeria are safe. “This disease is a one-off thing. Nigeria is safe and our forests and bush animals are not contaminated. My wife knows I eat only bush meat and that there will be trouble in my house if I don’t have it. We are too careful about so many things and you media people have a way of creating panic. I think that is what is happening now. Just because one non-indigene died in Nigeria, the whole country is on fire with all kinds of rumours.

“If the disease is coming from other countries, let government do its job and stop disturbing the people. Are they doing their jobs? If they are, this unfortunate Liberian shouldn’t have entered Nigeria in the first instance. They are now making noise everywhere after the man has died and someone else might have been infected.”

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