The devastating effect of the Ebola virus in West Africa has rattled medical practitioners in recent times. The disease, which has killed over 1,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, is spreading fast in the sub-continent. It s a contagious disease that can be infected by contact with carrier’s body fluids, contact with a carrier’s personal effects, and through contaminated food and drinks. To worsen matters, it has no known cure to date. The most scary part is that it kills faster than any known killer-disease: the patient can barely survive seven days after infection.
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We have been made to know that the African bush-meat, rats, monkeys and bats are scientifically identified carriers and consumption of these types of meat poses a maximum risk of contact. The Ebola disease was relatively distant to this region when news of its existence broke out in the 1970s with its first main casualty in the Sudan and subsequent spread to DR Congo. Guinea (Conakry) became the hotbed in early 2014, but within a short period of time, it had spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has been so devastating in those three countries that even foreign medical doctors with all the sophisticated equipment and experience to battle the menace had fallen victim.
The Ebola scare erupted in Nigeria with the news of the detection that a Liberian Ministry of Finance official on a mission to Lagos was suffering the disease and his eventual death. This incident sent shockwaves across the nation and this is one thing the Nigerian public (government, organizations and individuals) has effectively and beautifully responded to. A leading Nigerian airline swoftly suspended airlifting to and from the worst-hit countries. Aviation regulatory agency suspended certain airlines from conveying passengers from the countries and in some cases barred some airlines from the Nigerian airspace. Public awareness has gained ground; newspapers have gone mega-nuclear with editorials, news features, updates and even cartoons on the menacing nature of the virus and how it can be contacted/prevented. The illiterate now knows what Ebola is and how it can be prevented. All this is good news.
Having tightened up the airports, stopping nationals or visitors from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from entering Nigeria through the airports, it is essential to also perform comprehensive medical screening on all passengers from other West African and Central African countries. It is also important to screen Nigerians returning home from other parts of the world, because we cannot be too sure of who they had come in contact with before the Ebola problem became such a scary huge news. Immigration officers should be compelled to stop the usual business of being “sorted” by international travelers to have easy and quick passage. This is Ebola scare and they must ensure they truly protect our borders from the inflow of the killer-disease in the name of personal graft. Health officials at these places should also be equipped with the basic knowledge, equipmemt and skills to perform adequate and flawless screening.
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Aside the international airports, the seaports too have to be fortified. Sea travels may not be popular for international travelers in Nigeria, but we must recognize that seamen and women from across West Africa come in and leave Nigeria everyday. They anchor, offload and load at our seaports. The crew members enter into our towns, markets, bars, restaurants, hotels and meet different people in these cities. The immigration and health officials at these ports should not perform less what is expected at the airports. Custom officials too, with the help of medical experts, should ensure the food imports from neighbouring and distant countries are free from contamination.
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The borders are the most critical points. There is no gainsaying the fact that our borders are probably the most porous in the world. They are porous because of corruption, ill-equipment, carefree disposition of our security agencies, complacency and compromises here and there. The situation of the borders has been largely responsible for the deepening insecurity and festering Boko Haram crisis. There are too many compromises. The hundreds of borders, particularly the long stretch of Benin-Nigeria borderlines are places hundreds of thousands of West Africans pass everyday, crossing through the eye of the needle, without proper checks, without checks at all, with no papers, with all sorts of sickness and disease, with no ascertaining the level of danger these border-crossers pose to Nigeria. During the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, thousands of refugees crossed into Nigeria through these borders, seeking safe haven. With the huge health crisis at hand now, and with Nigeria seen as a place that offers lots of spiritual healing opportunities for Africans, with healing homes all over, the Ebola patients from neighbouring countries might begin to troop into the country. And for the security, particularly immigration officials, it will just be business as usual- “pay and go in”, or “just pass, you be our brother”.
To control the spread of the disease into the country, The Nigerian authorities must pay to the borders, double of the attention to be accorded the airports. Medical facilities have to be up-to-date. Experts have to be working 24/7, and the health officials and other security officials at these borders must themselves be well protected. Any slackness or tardy approach might be costly and irredeemable.
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The virus is probably the disease that has the cheapest capacity to spread and kill. It is ten times more dangerous than HIV/AIDS. Ebola is one killer-disease that has the fastest gestation period. Cancer has a far distance from it. It has sent many people already to their untimely graves. It is a pity that our West African neighbours are going through these hard times. After years of political turmoil and war that ravaged their lands, they do not deserve this kind of situation again. It is too much to bear. Our hearts go to families of those who have lost loved ones. Our prayer is that Jehovah, our loving God will heal our land and send His Angels to take charge of our health security. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea shall be healed. It is our prayer also, that Nigeria and other nations of Africa shall not experience the scourge of Ebola virus. We are protected by the Blood of Jesus. God will heal our land of terrorism and killer-diseases. Ebola virus is not Nigeria’s portion; it certainly is not Nigerians’ portion, in Jesus’ Holy Name!
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