30 July 2014

Nigeria: Country May Have Been in Long Romance With Ebola

Nigerians were jolted by the death, last week, of a Liberian national from the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

The story became even scarier with the discovery that the man collapsed upon arrival at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, the most visited of all airports in Nigeria.

And considering that Nigerians may not have had practical knowledge on how to handle Ebola Virus victims, having not recorded any case in the past, and in view of their disposition to helping people in distress, it is obvious that many people would have rushed in to help Patrick Sawyer when he collapsed.

Also, in view of the uncertainties over the ability of Nigeria's airport health service to handle Ebola related crisis, and the porosity of the country's entry borders over time, fears are rife that Nigerians may have been in romance with the deadly virus, which have symptoms that could be mistaken for other ailments earlier than now.

Renowned virologist, Professor Oyewale Tomori, who spoke on this in an interview with Daily Independent, said an Ebola like virus was isolated from blood samples obtained from healthy individuals across Nigeria.

He said, "Over 1000 samples were collected, out of which about 9-10 tested positive to the Ebola-like antigenes."

Giving further insight on the study, which he was part, he said "That particular analysis, which was done in the 1980s showed that the people who tested positive were from somewhere around the Savannah belt of the country. We, however, could not ascertain if it was Ebola we found."

But going by some factors including the porous nature of our borders in the past, the low level of knowledge, and other systemic failures, Tomori said, "These factors could make one say the virus may have been here. But authoritatively, one can only say, only one case, which is that of the foreigner who died last week, is the first to be recorded in Nigeria."

The bigger danger, however, lies in the fact that most laboratories in the country are not equipped with bio-harzard containment facilities to handle proper Ebola virus diagnosis.

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