Ebola remains the most dreaded word in the Nigerian- even West African vocabulary right now, pushing HIV/AIDS, malaria, typhoid and hepatitis B to the background of oblivion.
It is deadlier than typhoid and like HIV and hepatitis B, it has no known cure. But by far the most frightening thing about the scourge is that so little is known about it: its symptoms (they are more or less the same as those of malaria, typhoid and influenza), as well as its modes of transmission.
Many questions remain unanswered.
If the virus can only be transmitted by a dying sufferer, how come Patrick Sawyer- the Liberian who purportedly imported the virus into Nigeria- appeared healthy and yet was able to transmit it? How did the virus get to Anambra state where there had been no reported cases of Ebola? If the disease can only be caught when in direct contact with sufferers’ body fluids, why is the wearing of masks recommended?
There are other questions. Does everyone who comes into contact with Ebola compulsorily catch it? Like most diseases caused by pathogens (disease causing germs), can it lie dormant permanently in the body? What role does the host’s immunity play?
Only Wednesday morning was one of the questions answered. Information Minister Labaran Maku disclosed to State House journalists that the nurse, who had previously had contact with the Liberian Ebola patient Patrick Sawyer, fled quarantine in Lagos, and returned to her home in Enugu. This risky decision, and her resulting contact with 20 other people, have put the government on high alert.
Minister of Information Labaran Maku has disclosed that the nurse and the 20 people she was in contact with are currently under surveillance in Enugu.
Perhaps the host of unanswered questions, more than the disease itself, is responsible for the widespread panic and mass hysteria that has pervaded the entire country. While quips about Ebola have become standard jokes, it is from a sadistic rather than light hearted outlook that leave a bad taste in the mouth and fills you with more dread than comfort. Deaths have been recorded of people trying to avoid catching Ebola by the rather unconventional means of ingesting large amounts of cooking salt in the northern part of the country.
But considering there is no known cure, where really is the place of alternative remedies in all of this?
While the salt remedy has been roundly discountenanced, talk about previous research by former INEC boss and professor of pharmacognosy Maurice Iwu which fingered bitter kola as a possible cure, has been dead on arrival, despite having been reported by the BBC as far back as 1999 and the discovery being announced at the 16th International Botanical Congress in St Louis in the US.
According to a source in Sierra Leone which accuses western corporate interests of undermining local alternatives, that country’s Natural Solutions Foundation (NSF) claimed that it communicated 11 days to the three presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that a herb called “Nano Silva” cures Ebola without leaving behind any toxic imprint and or causing any side effects on patients. NSF claimed that Nano Silva is available in large quantity and can actually CURE Ebola for good.
“But why has Nano Silva not been tried?” the source asked Lipstick. “Unconfirmed reports within the government hierarchy in Guinea say the recent use of Nano Silva is one of the reasons Guinea is miraculously recovering from Ebola as the disease claims more lives in Liberia and Sierra Leone”.
Olufolahan Emmanuel, a food supplements manufacturer in Lagos recommends through Lipstick that carriers stick to therapeutic foods pending the availability of other remedies. “ I advise that infected and quarantined should drink 7 cloves of garlic three times after food daily for at least one week. May save lives…”
Meanwhile Dr. Wole Adebajo, head of Pathology at the General Hospital Lagos Island tells Lipstick he can only support “empirically proven remedies”.
“I have heard the one about potash and curry. As a doctor I know how the Ebola virus attacks the system on the cellular level, so I can guess what is feasible and what is not. Let me use this analogy. It is a well known fact that a good umbrella will keep the user wet. That, one can endorse, but if someone comes and says they have a basket that can keep you dry…”
Asked why everyone who comes into contact with a carrier seems to be getting it sometimes even when they are wearing protective gear, he agrees that the natural immune system should ordinarily be able to protect the body. “Don’t forget that when the victim is dying, there is fluid all over the place: they are throwing up, stooling, weeping and are being given infusions. When you talk about immunity, you are talking about people who eat well”.
He says the average Nigerian’s diet is inadequate in quantity and quality, and living conditions are dire.
“In a place like Lagos that is so crowded. People are on the BRT bus and need to stand. They are holding on to a pole and bumping into people. It is important for people to be aware”.
Another medical practitioner who wishes to remain anonymous- the medical director of a private hospital- tells Lipstick he is terrified of the whole thing, since many of those affected in Liberia and Sierra Leone are medical practitioners taking care of Ebola victims.
“Unless government has changed yesterday, we can predict they will be spending more money on press than they would on doing the needful”.