The re-emergence of the dreadful Ebola Virus in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone calls for serious concern. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as at July 1, 2015, Guinea has 12 new cases of Ebola and Sierra Leone with 15 new cases. Three new cases of the disease were reported in Liberia barely two months after WHO declared the country free of the virus. Last week a 17-year-old Liberian teenager died of the disease with nobody able to trace the source of this new emergence of Ebola Virus.
This should give us a cause to worry, due to the fact that the virus was imported into Nigeria by a Liberian and the country is a hub of and for business activities in the West African sub-region, attracting people from all over the world on daily basis.
With the latest development, the government has to be proactive and carry out proper policing of our borders, which are very porous and avoid the mistake we made the other time that gave Liberia-born Patrick Sawyer the room to smuggle Ebola Virus into the country. When the disease was ravaging Guinea, Liberia, Sieraleone and Senegal, we did not see it as our problem until we had a taste of it.
At the end, according to WHO record, there were 27, 550 Ebola cases with resultant 11, 235 deaths. Nigeria had 20 cases resulting in 8 deaths. The figure of victims would have been higher but for Dr. Stella Adadevoh of First Consultant Hospital, Lagos, where Sawyer was treated, who promptly alerted the Lagos State Government.
If the Nigerian government had taken proactive moves at preventing the disease entering into the country by properly screening all those coming into the country, the loss of those eight prevcious lives would have been averted. And the stigma the Nigerians suffer whenever they travelled abroad during the Ebola crisis would have been also averted. Nigerians were made to undergo rigourous Ebola screening even when WHO had declared the country free from the disease.
The country was one of the first countries to be declared Ebola-free, because of the concerted efforts made by the state, federal government and even the private sector to tackle the disease. Politics and party affiliations were put aside and all hands were on deck to tame the disease. The awareness that was created about the disease then was unprecedented.
This partnership by every Nigerian led to the defeat of Ebola Virus in the country. And when the disease was eventually tamed, the victory was celebrated by all Nigerians. With the resurfacing of Ebola Virus in the West African sub-region, we need to be on our guards and do everything to ensure that the disease is not imported into the country again. We must not repeat the mistake that saw Nigerians contacting the disease.
We must not wait for Ebola Virus to be brought into the country again before we put in place mechanism that would prevent the spread of the disease. Personnel at our border posts must properly screen anybody coming into the country for the disease. At this time, we can’t afford to take chances again, because the aftermath would be very severe.
Apart from screening everybody that is coming into the country for Ebola Virus, the hygienic attitude, especially that of washing of hands that we imbibed during the Ebola Virus crisis last year, which has waned, must be resurrected. It is time to bring out the sanitizers again. Similarly, the newspaper adverts, radio jiggles and TV commercials that rented the air creating Ebola awareness last year must return. This is not a time to be complacent. Let us prepare for the Ebola Virus before it takes us unaware again. The panic and confusion that greeted the Ebola crisis is still fresh in our minds. Prevent is far cheaper than cure!