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The pepper syndrome and Ebola

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By Josef Omorontionmwan

IN this part of the world, until recently, there was no scientific explanation for death because all deaths, including those from fatal accidents, were attributed to witchcraft.

All the same, instances of the outbreak of new diseases like the current Ebola are not new. But as they say in the colloquial, “Soldier come, soldier go, barrack remain”. Different diseases come and go but the human race remains. Ebola, too, will soon pass away.

Towards the twilight of the 1950s, there was an outbreak of influenza, which came with severe fever, dry throat, runny nose, redness of the eyes, etc. Many died and we thought the end had come. One particular religious sect was always there to increase our phobia that Armageddon had arrived.

Schools were closed. Resumption dates suffered many postponements. In the end, we survived.

Barely a decade after we survived the influenza, while the advanced world was celebrating man’s scientific breakthrough to the moon, those of us on this side of the globe were afflicted with the “Apollo”, known in medical terminology as viral heamorrhagic conjunctivitis.

In between, we had the outbreak of bird-flu and the mad-cow diseases, which took their tolls on animals and humans; and in the process, ravaged the world out there. In Africa, the fatality rate was not too pronounced.

HEALTH PERSONNEL IN PROTECTIVE  KITS AT THE NATIONAL HOSPITAL IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY (12/8/14).
HEALTH PERSONNEL IN PROTECTIVE KITS AT THE NATIONAL HOSPITAL IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY (12/8/14).

Come to think of it, Ugbokhokho, which is the local equivalence of the bird-flu, has always been with us. At first, there were no poultries that turned out fowls in their thousands. Native fowls were few and far apart. But once in a while, they were afflicted by the flu and they died. As soon as they died or when they showed signs of distress pointing to death, they were slaughtered and nicely prepared for dinner. They were good delicacies and we survived.

In the early 1980s, the big one, the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, arrived. It came with all the fears and swept across the world. We kept praying and living with its prescriptions.

But see how the new one, Ebola, has reduced the much-dreaded AIDS to fritters? Suddenly, nobody is now talking of AIDS, all because a bigger evil has arrived.

Enter Patrick Sawyer: He brought himself and his Ebola to Nigeria. Listen to the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu: “We have 11 confirmed cases of Ebola in Nigeria. Out of these, three are dead: Patrick Sawyer, a Nigerian Nurse and an ECOWAS Protocol Officer”. It could have been worse.

God always provides an escape route for His children. That’s why Sawyer arrived Nigeria when the Nigerian Doctors were on strike.

Otherwise, Sawyer would probably have been rushed to a larger health institution like the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, where between the doctors and the nurses; between the paramedics and the laboratory attendants; and between the registration point and the pharmacy, he would have come in contact with hundreds of people and by now, we would have been talking of infected and dead people in their thousands, not the meager figure of one doctor and one nurse that were involved at the local clinic.

With our yearning for Dollars, that expatriate, so-called, who was to pay his bill in hard currency would have been embraced by all, unknown to them that the man was a time bomb waiting to explode.

We think that this singular act of God using the doctors’ strike to avert a catastrophe should impel our doctors to call off their lingering strike.

In all this, we have learnt to obey instructions – curb your appetite; and only eat what you are asked to eat. Doubts and criticisms might be fatal. After all, only the living can argue.

We must also permit the Federal Government to wallow in its confusion and inconsistencies. While we were still dealing with the information that Ebola has no known cure yet, FG announced at the weekend that some of the people originally diagnosed for Ebola have been treated and released from hospital!

We believe in the geometric theorem,
“Things equal to the same thing are equal to one another”. The time has come to treat peptic ulcer like the Ebola disease. We see them as first cousins. Their victims bleed unto death.

The death, this past week, of the Udo man in Ovia South West Local Government Area of Edo State provides a golden opportunity to take a critical look at our romance with pepper.

The Edo State Government had a hard time explaining that the man died of bleeding from peptic ulcer and not Ebola as earlier rumoured. Actually, the incident that led to the man’s death caused a lot of panic in the community. People fled their homes, fearing that the deceased died of Ebola virus.

Our people eat too much pepper, as if it is the main meal. Since we already have enough problems to contend with, including malaria, hunger, measles, diarrhea, etc, we can do with less pepper consumption and live a healthier life.

This is coming from someone who has two left hands in the field of medicine but the truth is constant. A look at the peptic ulcer map of the world shows a direct correlation between the eating of pepper and the incidence of peptic ulcer.

Whereas pepper has no demonstrable nutritional value, research consistently shows that the prevalence of peptic ulcer is higher in the third world countries where it is estimated at about 70% of the population as against a maximum of 40% ratio in the developed world.

Medical Encyclopedia reveals that peptic ulcer is an open sore or raw area in the lining of the stomach or intestine. Put simply, excessive consumption of pepper is adding pepper to injury. Whereas the Ebola case is almost a death sentence, the candidate for peptic ulcer has a window of opportunity for a second chance by simply reducing his pepper consumption.

Essentially, people who eat too much pepper are on a kamikaze (a suicide mission) of sorts. Enough of these avoidable deaths!

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