Why I fear the Ebola virus threat in Lagos

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Discussions between ordinary Lagosians are now centred around the gravity of the threat and people are voicing concerns on how Nigeria would cope were the virus to become pandemic.

Our mediocre, ill-equipped healthcare system hardly gives much cause for confidence. Nor the fact that doctors in state run hospitals happen to be currently on strike.

Hygiene practices in most public hospitals also leave much to be desired and there is a lack of basic equipment. For example, it is not unusual for gloves to be rationed in public hospitals.

And in a congested city like Lagos where housing is scarce and people often live in cramped spaces, it is all too easy to imagine such a highly-infectious disease spreading rapidly.

Furthermore, preventing an epidemic is not easy in a place where many people who might suddenly feel ill do not have cars, cannot afford taxis or ambulances (which are mostly private and expensive), and would likely have to resort to being transported to a hospital via public transportation, thus potentially endangering others.

Such scenarios do not bear thinking about as our public buses are most times overcrowded in humid, cramped conditions.

Added to that is the possibility of undetected cases. Many Nigerians do not visit hospitals when ill for a variety of reasons – ranging from financial to a proclivity for self medication or in some cases, a preference for traditional medicine.

There is a danger in the fact that the early symptoms of the deadly ebola virus are similar to that of malaria, a very common illness in Nigeria for which people usually simply buy over the counter drugs from the nearest pharmacy. Malaria is as common here as the flu is in Europe so people hardly think of visiting a doctor whenever they experience malaria-like symptoms.

More needs to be done in terms of raising awareness among Nigerians while cases of identified ebola virus victims are still relatively low. Bearing in mind a prevalent culture of poor preparation for contingencies and government lip-service, it is all too easy to imagine the situation spiraling out of control.

Public responsibility is necessary too. So far, many comments on social media about the ebola virus threat paint a disturbing picture of how it is viewed by ordinary citizens. Some see it as part of a western conspiracy to “infect Africans.”

Such sentiments are hardly helpful. It is also not uncommon for Nigerians to use humour and flippancy as a defence mechanism against the tough realities of everyday life here; however trying to brush off this particular situation with jokes could lead to careless attitudes amongst some regarding safety measures.

Therefore, educating the public about the proper approach towards the virus threat should be of paramount importance to the authorities in addition to putting stringent control measures in place.

Hopefully, the current ebola virus threat in Nigeria will force a radical improvement of the healthcare sector as well as emergency responses.

Unlike some diseases which broke out and remained in remote areas of Nigeria in the past, therefore staying out of the public consciousness with only cursory regard paid to them by the authorities, the ebola virus in Lagos speaks a danger none can ignore.

In the meantime, it seems wise to follow my friend’s steps and heed the WHO recommendation on greeting: a friendly smile and nod will do just fine instead of a warm handshake.

Chief Editor
Author: Chief Editor

Nigerian Community,News, Events and more

In : Lagos

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