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Overcoming the Ebola palaver

NOW that Ebola is in Nigeria and may spread if nothing is urgently done to contain it, we may find ourselves in a situation where government may have to issue a federal isolation or quarantine order, on the whole nation, in order to stop or limit the spread of disease.

Isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy. Isolation restricts the movement of ill persons to help stop the spread of certain diseases. For example, hospitals use isolation for patients with infectious tuberculosis.

Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the movement of well persons who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease without knowing it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.

Quarantine can also help limit the spread of a communicable disease. Isolation and quarantine are used to protect the public by preventing exposure to infected persons or to persons who may be infected. If the government takes you in, you would have no rights in that situation. And once you get locked up with all of the other Ebola patients, there would be a pretty good chance that you would end up getting the disease and dying anyway. Ebola mortality rate is 55 percent, and can be as high as 90 percent.

The fear here is to imagine how we, as Nigerians, live; with porous borders; our traders still touch their tongues with fingers while counting money; we hug and shake hands freely, bunch ourselves up on top Okadas, travel in overcrowded buses, taxis and trains all over the country.

It is just mind boggling how this thing can spread to persons in a matter of days, even through a hand shake. If a carrier blew his nostrils and used his handkerchief to clean up as usual, any one he shakes may be infected! With an incubation period of eight to 21 days, one can be spreading it for over one week before realising he has it.

This is one disease nobody should catch.There is no vaccine, no cure for now. Doctors treating Ebola patients so far are going to extreme lengths to keep from contracting it, but despite those precautionary measures, some doctors have already gotten sick and died.

This is not like other Ebola outbreaks, something seems different this time.It’s like a stronger strain of the East African type came to West Africa, and Mr Sawyerr from Liberia, who perhaps thought Nigeria had solutions, brought the evil to us! Good and bad things alike come through humans, and so we have Ebola from Liberia.

Other nations have been preparing for this outbreak, but not Nigeria, as usual. America, according to the Committee on Armed Services, distributed “Biolological Diagnostic Systems” to National Guard Units in all 50 states back in April this year.Also, about 340 Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System, JBAIDS, units have thus far been given to emergency response personnel.

The systems are rapid, reliable, and [provide] simultaneous identification of specific biological agents and pathogens. A hospital in Germany, assured WHO, is to receive and help treat victims, with all necessary preparations on ground.

With over 670 people already killed by the disease in West Africa, 10 cases in Nigeria and two deaths, we need to develop an African solution to this epidemic. America and Europe may decide to restrict movements from nations with Ebola into their territories, and they will be right to do so in the interest of their peoples. Nigeria, like others, should be working round the clock to contain this attack in months.

How many ordinary Nigerians know about Ebola in our rural areas where they still enjoy their bush meats, especially bats and monkeys ? How many Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System, BAIDS, units are we getting, where and when they will be installed, and how educated and informed are our security personnel about Ebola, and biological agent identification?

Our home grown solution may begin with the development of the bitter kola therapy. It is wrong to disparage the bitter kola story, because we have our own experiences with bitter kola and its high medicinal values which may help in Ebola treatment. In 1979, just before I left the University of Ife, there was study on the bitter kola by a Professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The result included that chewing bitter kola sticks in the morning prevented tooth decay. We tried it, it was true, and we followed up during our NYSC in 1980 to export chewing sticks to Africans in the USA and UK. Second, my village house was unoccupied for about five years because we travelled. Upon return, and based on recommendation of my mother, I used bitter kola to keep the place safe once again, and found out that something about the bitter kola keeps snakes away! Third ,we ate so much bats during the war, and we also ate lots of the whole fruits of bitter kola, and that may be why we did not fall sick at all.

The ripe bitter kola fruit has a fine taste. Finally, only last August a colleague in the UK was visiting a factory that produces antibiotics, I think in Glasgow. He was taken to a warehouse that was full of bitter kola; he called me, and I told him that I was not surprised.

If bitter kola restricted Ebola growth only in the test tube, ala Prof. Maurice Iwu’s work, let Nigeria develop it to the next level, because Africa’s first cure for Ebola may well lie in the bitter kola.

Our governments and Big Pharma should develop the serum for use in Nigeria, and then export it to the world. If Ebola is from Africa, we ought to have our own home grown treatment for it, and now is the time. God must be saying something to us all about Ebola, and it is: “Africa, this is your time, repent, and change!”


By Clement Udegbe, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.


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