The Mind Factor: ‘Nigeria-Ebola’ play in perspective

The proprietress of the secondary school I attended in Aba had this saying she was very fond of and made sure we never stopped hearing. On many occasions while we were in class, or standing on the hard-clay assembly grounds behind the main school building, or seated in the large auditorium, she would face us in one of her uniform loose, short-sleeved blouses, knee-length cotton skirts and black flats. Her slouched shoulders would straighten a fraction of an inch, her amply dimpled chin would incline at a determined angle and set in her dark brown face, her black eyes would burn strength and hope into ours, while she said, “I can do it! You can do it! If I set my mind to it!”

Often she would ask us to repeat after her and most of us would attempt humorous mimicries of her American accent – I cain duweht…you cain duweht…if I set my mind tuweht! We would covertly snicker among ourselves and exchange low high-fives; and a number of our teachers would even crack tiny smiles at our juvenile mischief, but not Mrs Zoe. She would stand stern while we repeated those words and like her, gesticulated accordingly with our index fingers. And it worked because they stuck. The words didn’t just stick in our hearts and minds, they have rung true for me in all the years since then.

I CAN DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT! IF I SET MY MIND TO IT!

The best example that comes to mind is with respect to the emergence of the Ebola virus in Nigeria few months ago. The manner in which EVD was battled into containment in Nigeria reeks of ardent resolve, especially on the part of the health officials and government. The facts that follow establish this as concisely as possible:

Nigeria’s first reported case of Ebola was an imported one, borne by the 40-year old Patrick Sawyer into Lagos via a flight from Monrovia, Liberia. Fortunately, he was suspected of having the virus and was hospitalized on arrival in Nigeria at the First Consultant Hospital, Obalende. Mr. Sawyer died 25 July having infected healthcare staff that had had close, unprotected contact with him prior to realizing he was infected. It was imperative then to initiate containment action against the virus and Nigerian health officials promptly swung into action.

By the 17th of September, records showed the total number of confirmed cases to be 19 with 7 deaths. There were 4 contacts still under surveillance in Lagos and 344 in Rivers State. Over 520 contacts had been discharged from surveillance following a symptom-free 21-day observation window. And by the 1st of October, these numbers remained except for additional two cases – one infection and one death, both marked as ‘probable’.

As impressive as they are, these numbers barely scratch the top of how much work went into the fight to contain Ebola. A doctor’s strike that had been underway for more than a month was temporarily suspended in early August to enable medical personnel help with the outbreak. A State of Emergency was declared, discouraging large gatherings and asking schools to extend summer holidays. As the outbreak continued, the doctor’s strike was cancelled (instead of suspended) and school closures were extended through mid-October. Isolation facilities and centers were established in different parts of the country – one 40-bed facility in Lagos, one 26-bed centre in Rivers state, seven hospitals in Delta state, a quarantine centre in Niger state – along with elaborate plans ongoing to expand on the infrastructure. Volunteers were raised and trained to become primary screeners while physicians underwent training to become secondary screeners, and to distinguish suspected cases of Ebola from other diseases. Thousands of people were screened per day per point of entry – land, sea and air.

The result? There have been no new cases of Ebola in Nigeria since August 31, a strong indication that the virus has been contained.

While the aid of foreign institutions like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) cannot be discounted, most of the praise has reserved for Nigerian physicians like the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and the Nigerian Ministry of Health headed by Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. In the words of a doctor with the Atlanta-based CDC, Dr Aileen Marty, “”The Nigerian government was wholeheartedly into the process of trying to solve the problem”

Dr AdadevohProf Onyebuchi Chukwu

While the encomiums on the ebullient Dr. Adadevoh, who paid the ultimate price in the fight, and her colleagues are without suspect, much of those heaped on the Nigerian government are perhaps more in shock than anything else. Many have wondered at the energy that was mustered by the government in procuring and unleashing resources to fight Ebola; ‘the Nigerian government is incapable of such efficiency’, the disbelieving public has declared.

But is it really?

Dr. Marty of the CDC identified reasons which she thought aided the Nigerian battle against Ebola, and one such reason was that the disease was mostly limited to the wealthier population of Nigeria. “The person who brought the infection was a diplomat,” Marty said. “He was brought to one of the best hospitals in Nigeria, and the people who were infected were individuals who quickly comprehended the importance of following our recommendations.”

This train of thought was shared by a Nigerian who for the purposes of this piece, chose to remain anonymous. In his opinion, Ebola was battled so methodically and decisively because it struck at the heart of the upper social class of the society. “Otherwise why are lower class members of the society still dying daily from malaria and child labor?” he finished emphatically. Some other schools of thought would rather remain grateful – for the containment of Ebola – and hopeful – for the rest.

Whichever school of thought you choose to align with, one truth we can all agree on is that the Nigerian government has shown itself capable of excellence. Whether it was due process or a case of necessity mothering invention matters not at the moment; the country’s leaders have shown that if they put their mind to a task, they can achieve it. Much like the tortoise who claimed he couldn’t dance but was caught gyrating in the inner chambers of his hut to the beats of the moonlight drum, the Nigerian leaders must now dance the music of the gods in the market place. They must now answer a burdened people’s call to accountability par excellence.

But will they? Can they?

“I can do it! You can do it! If we put our minds to it!”

 

 

Extracts from:

How Nigeria contained its Ebola outbreak by Mark Gollom, MSN news.

International SOS report, October 2014.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

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EBOLA SURVIVAL STORY OF DR. ADA IGONOH

Originally published on Bellanaija.com

As Nigeria battles with the outbreak of Ebola, we consistently commend the dedication and selflessness of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Lives have been lost, and families have had to undergo the trauma of isolation. The fear of the unknown even very crippling. We read about the numbers in the news, but when we put a face to the news reports, it brings it home. Dr. Ada Igonoh of First Consultants Hospital is one of the doctors who attended to Patrick Sawyer. She was infected by the virus and miraculously, she survives to share her story.

It is a long read but definitely worth reading as Dr. Ada details her experience. It’s a really gripping read which shows the story of strength, faith and dedication.

***

Dr Ada Igonoh

On the night of Sunday July 20, 2014, Patrick Sawyer was wheeled into the Emergency Room at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos, with complaints of fever and body weakness. The male doctor on call admitted him as a case of malaria and took a full history. Knowing that Mr. Sawyer had recently arrived from Liberia, the doctor asked if he had been in contact with an Ebola patient in the last couple of weeks, and Mr. Sawyer denied any such contact. He also denied attending any funeral ceremony recently. Blood samples were taken for full blood count, malaria parasites, liver function test and other baseline investigations. He was admitted into a private room and started on antimalarial drugs and analgesics. That night, the full blood count result came back as normal and not indicative of infection.

The following day however, his condition worsened. He barely ate any of his meals. His liver function test result showed his liver enzymes were markedly elevated. We then took samples for HIV and hepatitis screening.

At about 5.00pm, he requested to see a doctor. I was the doctor on call that night so I went in to see him. He was lying in bed with his intravenous (I.V.) fluid bag removed from its metal stand and placed beside him. He complained that he had stooled about five times that evening and that he wanted to use the bathroom again. I picked up the I.V. bag from his bed and hung it back on the stand. I told him I would inform a nurse to come and disconnect the I.V. so he could conveniently go to the bathroom. I walked out of his room and went straight to the nurses’ station where I told the nurse on duty to disconnect his I.V. I then informed my Consultant, Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh about the patient’s condition and she asked that he be placed on some medications.

The following day, the results for HIV and hepatitis screening came out negative. As we were preparing for the early morning ward rounds, I was approached by an ECOWAS official who informed me that Patrick Sawyer had to catch an 11 o’clock flight to Calabar for a retreat that morning. He wanted to know if it would be possible. I told him it wasn’t, as he was acutely ill. Dr. Adadevoh also told him the patient could certainly not leave the hospital in his condition. She then instructed me to write very boldly on his chart that on no account should Patrick Sawyer be allowed out of the hospital premises without the permission of Dr. Ohiaeri, our Chief Medical Consultant. All nurses and doctors were duly informed.

During our early morning ward round with Dr. Adadevoh, we concluded that this was not malaria and that the patient needed to be screened for Ebola Viral Disease. She immediately started calling laboratories to find out where the test could be carried out. She was eventually referred to Professor Omilabu of the LUTH Virology Reference Lab in Idi-Araba whom she called immediately. Prof. Omilabu told her to send blood and urine samples to LUTH straight away. She tried to reach the Lagos State Commissioner for Health but was unable to contact him at the time. She also put calls across to officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Adadevoh at this time was in a pensive mood. Patrick Sawyer was now a suspected case of Ebola, perhaps the first in the country. He was quarantined, and strict barrier nursing was applied with all the precautionary measures we could muster. Dr. Adadevoh went online, downloaded information on Ebola and printed copies which were distributed to the nurses, doctors and ward maids. Blood and urine samples were sent to LUTH that morning. Protective gear, gloves, shoe covers and facemasks were provided for the staff. A wooden barricade was placed at the entrance of the door to keep visitors and unauthorized personnel away from the patient.

Despite the medications prescribed earlier, the vomiting and diarrhea persisted. The fever escalated from 38c to 40c.

On the morning of Wednesday 23rd July, the tests carried out in LUTH showed a signal for Ebola. Samples were then sent to Dakar, Senegal for a confirmatory test. Dr. Adadevoh went for several meetings with the Lagos State Ministry of Health. Thereafter, officials from Lagos State came to inspect the hospital and the protective measures we had put in place.

The following day, Thursday 24th July, I was again on call. At about 10.00pm Mr. Sawyer requested to see me. I went into the newly created dressing room, donned my protective gear and went in to see him. He had not been cooperating with the nurses and had refused any additional treatment. He sounded confused and said he received a call from Liberia asking for a detailed medical report to be sent to them. He also said he had to travel back to Liberia on a 5.00am flight the following morning and that he didn’t want to miss his flight. I told him that I would inform Dr. Adadevoh. As I was leaving the room, I met Dr. Adadevoh dressed in her protective gear along with a nurse and another doctor. They went into his room to have a discussion with him and as I heard later to reset his I.V. line which he had deliberately removed after my visit to his room.

At 6:30am, Friday 25th July, I got a call from the nurse that Patrick Sawyer was completely unresponsive. Again I put on the protective gear and headed to his room. I found him slumped in the bathroom. I examined him and observed that there was no respiratory movement. I felt for his pulse; it was absent. We had lost him. It was I who certified Patrick Sawyer dead. I informed Dr. Adadevoh immediately and she instructed that no one was to be allowed to go into his room for any reason at all. Later that day, officials from W.H.O came and took his body away. The test in Dakar later came out positive for Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. We now had the first official case of Ebola virus disease in Nigeria.

It was a sobering day. We all began to go over all that happened in the last few days, wondering just how much physical contact we had individually made with Patrick Sawyer. Every patient on admission was discharged that day and decontamination began in the hospital. We were now managing a crisis situation. The next day, Saturday 26th July, all staff of First Consultants attended a meeting with Prof. Nasidi of the National Centre for Disease Control, Prof Omilabu of LUTH Virology Reference Lab, and some officials of W.H.O. They congratulated us on the actions we had taken and enlightened us further about the Ebola Virus Disease. They said we were going to be grouped into high risk and low risk categories based on our individual level of exposure to Patrick Sawyer, the “index” case. Each person would receive a temperature chart and a thermometer to record temperatures in the morning and night for the next 21 days. We were all officially under surveillance. We were asked to report to them at the first sign of a fever for further blood tests to be done. We were reassured that we would all be given adequate care. The anxiety in the air was palpable.

The frenetic pace of life in Lagos, coupled with the demanding nature of my job as a doctor, means that I occasionally need a change of environment. As such, one week before Patrick Sawyer died, I had gone to my parents’ home for a retreat. I was still staying with them when I received my temperature chart and thermometer on Tuesday 29th of July. I could not contain my anxiety. People were talking Ebola everywhere – on television, online, everywhere. I soon started experiencing joint and muscle aches and a sore throat, which I quickly attributed to stress and anxiety. I decided to take malaria tablets. I also started taking antibiotics for the sore throat. The first couple of temperature readings were normal. Every day I would attempt to recall the period Patrick Sawyer was on admission – just how much direct and indirect contact did I have with him? I reassured myself that my contact with him was quite minimal. I completed the anti-malarials but the aches and pains persisted. I had loss of appetite and felt very tired.

On Friday 1st of August, my temperature read a high 38.7c. As I type this, I recall the anxiety I felt that morning. I could not believe what I saw on the thermometer. I ran to my mother’s room and told her. I did not go to work that day. I cautiously started using a separate set of utensils and cups from the ones my family members were using.

On Saturday 2nd of August, the fever worsened. It was now at 39c and would not be reduced by taking paracetamol. This was now my second day of fever. I couldn’t eat. The sore throat was getting worse. That was when I called the helpline and an ambulance was sent with W.H.O doctors who came and took a sample of my blood. Later that day, I started stooling and vomiting. I stayed away from my family. I started washing my plates and spoons myself. My parents meanwhile, were convinced that I could not have Ebola.

The following day, Sunday 3rd of August, I got a call from one of the doctors who came to take my sample the day before. He told me that the sample which was they had taken was not confirmatory, and that they needed another sample. He did not sound very coherent and I became worried. They came with the ambulance that afternoon and told me that I had to go with them to Yaba. I was confused. Couldn’t the second sample be taken in the ambulance like the previous one? He said a better-qualified person at the Yaba centre would take the sample. I asked if they would bring me back. He said “yes.” Even with the symptoms I did not believe I had Ebola. After all, my contact with Sawyer was minimal. I only touched his I.V. fluid bag just that once without gloves. The only time I actually touched him was when I checked his pulse and confirmed him dead, and I wore double gloves and felt adequately protected.

I told my parents I had to go with the officials to Yaba and that I would be back that evening. I wore a white top and a pair of jeans, and I put my iPad and phones in my bag.

A man opened the ambulance door for me and moved away from me rather swiftly. Strange behavior, I thought. They were friendly with me the day before, but that day, not so. No pleasantries, no smiles. I looked up and saw my mother watching through her bedroom window.

We soon got to Yaba. I really had no clue where I was. I knew it was a hospital. I was left alone in the back of the ambulance for over four hours. My mind was in a whirl. I didn’t know what to think. I was offered food to eat but I could barely eat the rice.

The ambulance door opened and a Caucasian gentleman approached me but kept a little distance. He said to me, “I have to inform you that your blood tested positive for Ebola. I am sorry.” I had no reaction. I think I must have been in shock. He then told me to open my mouth and he looked at my tongue. He said it was the typical Ebola tongue. I took out my mirror from my bag and took a look and I was shocked at what I saw. My whole tongue had a white coating, looked furry and had a long, deep ridge right in the middle. I then started to look at my whole body, searching for Ebola rashes and other signs as we had been recently instructed. I called my mother immediately and said, “Mummy, they said I have Ebola, but don’t worry, I will survive it. Please, go and lock my room now; don’t let anyone inside and don’t touch anything.” She was silent. I cut the line.

I was taken to the female ward. I was shocked at the environment. It looked like an abandoned building. I suspected it had not been in use for quite a while. As I walked in, I immediately recognized one of the ward maids from our hospital. She always had a smile for me but not this time. She was ill and she looked it. She had been stooling a lot too. I soon settled into my corner and looked around the room. It smelled of faeces and vomit. It also had a characteristic Ebola smell to which I became accustomed. Dinner was served – rice and stew. The pepper stung my mouth and tongue. I dropped the spoon. No dinner that night.

Dr. David, the Caucasian man who had met me at the ambulance on my arrival, came in wearing his full protective ‘hazmat’ suit and goggles. It was fascinating seeing one live. I had only seen them online. He brought bottles of water and ORS, the oral fluid therapy which he dropped by my bedside. He told me that 90 percent of the treatment depended on me. He said I had to drink at least 4.5 litres of ORS daily to replace fluids lost in stooling and vomiting. I told him I had stooled three times earlier and taken Imodium tablets to stop the stooling. He said it was not advisable, as the virus would replicate the more inside of me. It was better he said to let it out. He said good night and left.

My parents called. My uncle called. My husband called crying. He could not believe the news. My parents had informed him, as I didn’t even know how to break the news to him.

As I lay on my bed in that isolation ward, strangely, I did not fear for my life. I was confident that I would leave that ward some day. There was an inner sense of calm. I did not for a second think I would be consumed by the disease. That evening, the symptoms fully kicked in. I was stooling almost every two hours. The toilets did not flush so I had to fetch water in a bucket from the bathroom each time I used the toilet. I then placed another bucket beneath my bed for the vomiting.

On occasion I would run to the toilet with a bottle of ORS, so that as I was stooling, I was drinking.

The next day Monday 4th of August, I began to notice red rashes on my skin particularly on my arms. I had developed sores all over my mouth. My head was pounding so badly. The sore throat was so severe I could not eat. I could only drink the ORS. I took paracetamol for the pain. The ward maid across from me wasn’t doing so well. She had stopped speaking. I couldn’t even brush my teeth; the sores in my mouth were so bad. This was a battle for my life but I was determined I would not die.

Every morning, I began the day with reading and meditating on Psalm 91. The sanitary condition in the ward left much to be desired. The whole Ebola thing had caught everyone by surprise. Lagos State Ministry of Health was doing its best to contain the situation but competent hands were few. The sheets were not changed for days. The floor was stained with greenish vomitus and excrement. Dr. David would come in once or twice a day and help clean up the ward after chatting with us. He was the only doctor who attended to us. There was no one else at that time. The matrons would leave our food outside the door; we had to go get the food ourselves. They hardly entered in the initial days. Everyone was being careful. This was all so new. I could understand, was this not how we ourselves had contracted the disease? Mosquitoes were our roommates until they brought us mosquito nets.

Later that evening, Dr. David brought another lady into the ward. I recognized her immediately as Justina Ejelonu, a nurse who had started working at First Consultants on the 21st of July, a day after Patrick Sawyer was admitted. She was on duty on the day Patrick reported that he was stooling. While she was attending to him that night, he had yanked off his drip, letting his blood flow almost like a tap onto her hands. Justina was pregnant and was brought into our ward bleeding from a suspected miscarriage. She had been told she was there only on observation. The news that she had contracted Ebola was broken to her the following day after results of her blood test came out positive. Justina was devastated and wept profusely – she had contracted Ebola on her first day at work.

My husband started visiting but was not allowed to come close to me. He could only see me from a window at a distance. He visited so many times. It was he who brought me a change of clothes and toiletries and other things I needed because I had not even packed a bag. I was grateful I was not with him at home when I fell ill or he would most certainly have contracted the disease. My retreat at my parents’ home turned out to be the instrumentality God used to shield and save him.

I drank the ORS fluid like my life depended on it. Then I got a call from my pastor. He had been informed about my predicament. He called me every single day morning and night and would pray with me over the phone. He later sent me a CD player, CDs of messages on faith and healing, and Holy Communion packs through my husband. My pastor, who also happens to be a medical doctor, encouraged me to monitor how many times I had stooled and vomited each day and how many bottles of ORS I had consumed. We would then discuss the disease and pray together. He asked me to do my research on Ebola since I had my iPad with me and told me that he was also doing his study. He wanted us to use all relevant information on Ebola to our advantage. So I researched and found out all I could about the strange disease that has been in existence for 38 years. My research, my faith, my positive view of life, the extended times of prayer, study and listening to encouraging messages boosted my belief that I would survive the Ebola scourge.

There are five strains of the virus and the deadliest of them is the Zaire strain, which was what I had. But that did not matter. I believed I would overcome even the deadliest of strains. Infected patients who succumb to the disease usually die between 6 to 16 days after the onset of the disease from multiple organ failure and shock caused by dehydration. I was counting the days and keeping myself well hydrated. I didn’t intend to die in that ward.

My research gave me ammunition. I read that as soon as the virus gets into the body, it begins to replicate really fast. It enters the blood cells, destroys them and uses those same blood cells to aggressively invade other organs where they further multiply. Ideally, the body’s immune system should immediately mount up a response by producing antibodies to fight the virus. If the person is strong enough, and that strength is sustained long enough for the immune system to kill off the viruses, the patient is likely to survive. If the virus replicates faster than the antibodies can handle however, further damage is done to the organs. Ebola can be likened to a multi-level, multi-organ attack but I had no intention of letting the deadly virus destroy my system. I drank more ORS. I remember saying to myself repeatedly, “I am a survivor, I am a survivor.”

I also found out that a patient with Ebola cannot be re-infected and they cannot relapse back into the disease as there is some immunity conferred on survivors. My pastor and I would discuss these findings, interpret them as it related to my situation and pray together. I looked forward to his calls. They were times of encouragement and strengthening. I continued to meditate on the Word of God. It was my daily bread.

Shortly after Justina came into the ward, the ward maid, Mrs Ukoh passed on. The disease had gotten into her central nervous system. We stared at her lifeless body in shock. It was a whole 12 hours before officials of W.H.O came and took her body away. The ward had become the house of death. The whole area surrounding her bed was disinfected with bleach. Her mattress was taken and burned.

To contain the frequent diarrhea, I had started wearing adult diapers, as running to the toilet was no longer convenient for me. The indignity was quite overwhelming, but I did not have a choice. My faith was being severely tested. The situation was desperate enough to break anyone psychologically. Dr. Ohiaeri also called us day and night, enquiring about our health and the progress we were making. He sent provisions, extra drugs, vitamins, Lucozade, towels, tissue paper; everything we needed to be more comfortable in that dark hole we found ourselves. Some of my male colleagues had also been admitted to the male ward two rooms away, but there was no interaction with them.

We were saddened by the news that Jato, the ECOWAS protocol officer to Patrick Sawyer who had also tested positive, had passed on days after he was admitted.

Two more females joined us in the ward; a nurse from our hospital and a patient from another hospital. The mood in the ward was solemn. There were times we would be awakened by the sudden, loud cry from one of the women. It was either from fear, pain mixed with the distress or just the sheer oppression of our isolation.

I kept encouraging myself. This could not be the end for me. Five days after I was admitted, the vomiting stopped. A day after that, the diarrhea ceased. I was overwhelmed with joy. It happened at a time I thought I could no longer stand the ORS. Drinking that fluid had stretched my endurance greatly.

I knew countless numbers of people were praying for me. Prayer meetings were being held on my behalf. My family was praying day and night. Text messages of prayers flooded my phones from family members and friends. I was encouraged to press on. With the encouragement I was receiving I began to encourage the others in the ward. We decided to speak life and focus on the positive. I then graduated from drinking only the ORS fluid to eating only bananas, to drinking pap and then bland foods. Just when I thought I had the victory, I suddenly developed a severe fever. The initial fever had subsided four days after I was admitted, and then suddenly it showed up again. I thought it was the Ebola. I enquired from Dr. David who said fever was sometimes the last thing to go, but he expressed surprise that it had stopped only to come back on again. I was perplexed.

I discussed it with my pastor who said it could be a separate pathology and possibly a symptom of malaria. He promised he would research if indeed this was Ebola or something else. That night as I stared at the dirty ceiling, I felt a strong impression that the new fever I had developed was not as a result of Ebola but malaria. I was relieved. The following morning, Dr. Ohiaeri sent me antimalarial medication which I took for three days. Before the end of the treatment, the fever had disappeared.

I began to think about my mother. She was under surveillance along with my other family members. I was worried. She had touched my sweat. I couldn’t get the thought off my mind. I prayed for her. Hours later on Twitter I came across a tweet by W.H.O saying that the sweat of an Ebola patient cannot transmit the virus at the early stage of the infection. The sweat could only transmit it at the late stage.

That settled it for me. It calmed the storms that were raging within me concerning my parents. I knew right away it was divine guidance that caused me to see that tweet. I could cope with having Ebola, but I was not prepared to deal with a member of my family contracting it from me.

Soon, volunteer doctors started coming to help Dr. David take care of us. They had learned how to protect themselves. Among the volunteer doctors was Dr. Badmus, my consultant in LUTH during my housemanship days. It was good to see a familiar face among the care-givers. I soon understood the important role these brave volunteers were playing. As they increased in number, so did the number of shifts increase and subsequently the number of times the patients could access a doctor in one day. This allowed for more frequent patient monitoring and treatment. It also reduced care-giver fatigue. It was clear that Lagos State was working hard to contain the crisis

Sadly, Justina succumbed to the disease on the 12th of August. It was a great blow and my faith was greatly shaken as a result. I commenced daily Bible study with the other two female patients and we would encourage one another to stay positive in our outlook though in the natural it was grim and very depressing. My communion sessions with the other women were very special moments for us all.

On my 10th day in the ward, the doctors having noted that I had stopped vomiting and stooling and was no longer running a fever, decided it was time to take my blood sample to test if the virus had cleared from my system. They took the sample and told me that I shouldn’t be worried if it comes out positive as the virus takes a while before it is cleared completely. I prayed that I didn’t want any more samples collected from me. I wanted that to be the first and last sample to be tested for the absence of the virus in my system. I called my pastor. He encouraged me and we prayed again about the test.

On the evening of the day Justina passed on, we were moved to the new isolation centre. We felt like we were leaving hell and going to heaven.

We were conveyed to the new place in an ambulance. It was just behind the old building. Time would not permit me to recount the drama involved with the dynamics of our relocation. It was like a script from a science fiction movie. The new building was cleaner and much better than the old building. Towels and nightwear were provided on each bed. The environment was serene.

The following night, Dr. Adadevoh was moved to our isolation ward from her private room where she had previously been receiving treatment. She had also tested positive for Ebola and was now in a coma. She was receiving I.V. fluids and oxygen support and was being monitored closely by the W.H.O doctors. We all hoped and prayed that she would come out of it. It was so difficult seeing her in that state. I could not bear it. She was my consultant, my boss, my teacher and my mentor. She was the imperial lady of First Consultants, full of passion, energy and competence. I imagined she would wake up soon and see that she was surrounded by her First Consultants family but sadly it was not to be.

I continued listening to my healing messages. They gave me life. I literarily played them hours on end. Two days later, on Saturday the 16th of August, the W.H.O doctors came with some papers. I was informed that the result of my blood test was negative for Ebola virus. If I could somersault, I would have but my joints were still slightly painful. I was free to go home after being in isolation for exactly 14 days. I was so full of thanks and praise to God. I called my mother to get fresh clothes and slippers and come pick me. My husband couldn’t stop shouting when I called him. He was completely overwhelmed with joy.

I was told however that I could not leave the ward with anything I came in with. I glanced one last time at my CD player, my valuable messages, my research assistant aka my iPad, my phones and other items. I remember saying to myself, “I have life; I can always replace these items.”

I went for a chlorine bath, which was necessary to disinfect my skin from my head to my toes. It felt like I was being baptized into a new life as Dr. Carolina, a W.H.O doctor from Argentina poured the bucket of chlorinated water all over me. I wore a new set of clothes, following the strict instructions that no part of the clothes must touch the floor and the walls. Dr. Carolina looked on, making sure I did as instructed.

I was led out of the bathroom and straight to the lawn to be united with my family, but first I had to cut the red ribbon that served as a barrier. It was a symbolic expression of my freedom. Everyone cheered and clapped. It was a little but very important ceremony for me. I was free from Ebola! I hugged my family as one who had been liberated after many years of incarceration. I was like someone who had fought death face to face and come back to the land of the living.

We had to pass through several stations of disinfection before we reached the car. Bleach and chlorinated water were sprayed on everyone’s legs at each station. As we made our way to the car, we walked past the old isolation building. I could hardly recognize it. I could not believe I slept in that building for 10 days. I was free! Free of Ebola. Free to live again. Free to interact with humanity again. Free from the sentence of death.

My parents and two brothers were under surveillance for 21 days and they completed the surveillance successfully. None of them came down with a fever. The house had been disinfected by Lagos State Ministry of Health soon after I was taken to the isolation centre. I thank God for shielding them from the plague.

My recovery after discharge has been gradual but progressive. I thank God for the support of family and friends. I remember my colleagues who we lost in this battle. Dr. Adadevoh my boss, Nurse Justina Ejelonu, and the ward maid, Mrs. Ukoh were heroines who lost their lives in the cause to protect Nigeria. They will never be forgotten.

I commend the dedication of the W.H.O doctors, Dr. David from Virginia, USA, who tried several times to convince me to specialize in infectious diseases, Dr. Carolina from Argentina who spoke so calmly and encouragingly, Mr. Mauricio from Italy who always offered me apples and gave us novels to read. I especially thank the volunteer Nigerian doctors, matrons and cleaners who risked their lives to take care of us. I must also commend the Lagos State government, and the state and federal ministries of health for their swift efforts to contain the virus. To all those prayed for me, I cannot thank you enough. And to my First Consultants family, I say a heartfelt thank you for your dedication and for your support throughout this very difficult period.

I still believe in miracles. None of us in the isolation ward was given any experimental drugs or so-called immune boosters. I was full of faith yet pragmatic enough to consume as much ORS as I could even when I wanted to give up and throw the bottles away. I researched on the disease extensively and read accounts of the survivors. I believed that even if the mortality rate was 99%, I would be part of the 1% who survive.

Early detection and reporting to hospital is key to patient survival. Please do not hide yourself if you have been in contact with an Ebola patient and have developed the symptoms. Regardless of any grim stories one may have heard about the treatment of patients in the isolation centre, it is still better to be in the isolation ward with specialist care, than at home where you and others will be at risk.

I read that Dr. Kent Brantly, the American doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was flown out to the United States for treatment was being criticized for attributing his healing to God when he was given the experimental drug, Zmapp. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the nagging questions of life. Why do some die and some survive? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in the midst of pain and suffering? Where does science end and God begin? These are issues we may never fully comprehend on this side of eternity. All I know is that I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and came out unscathed.

***

We’d like to thank Dr. Ada Igonoh for sharing her inspirational story with BellaNaija.

We’re hoping the spread of Ebola Virus is curbed soon, and we’re thankful for all the health workers and medical researchers around the world, who are working tirelessly to achieve this goal.

 

A MOTHER’S HEART

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Narrator: KC’s phone rings just as he steps out of the shower. He is going to ignore it because he is late for work…no, make that VERY late for work; but his eye spies the caller ID and it is Mummy. He shoots a furtive glance at the wall clock and the positions of the hands on the timepiece elicit a sigh from him. He takes the call.

You will find out more about Mummy at the end of this story, but for now, let me share with you two things about her calls. One, you better pick them; everyone knew that if Mummy called and you didn’t pick, she would only keep calling back. And if your phone turned unreachable, she started calling everybody she knew who knew you and she would badger them until they badgered you into calling her back. The second thing to remember about Mummy KC’s calls is that they were never short: so the first thing you bought immediately you left home long-term was a Bluetooth headset.

Back to KC now; he adjusts his headset and while struggling into his boxers, takes the call.

Mummy: Helloww

KC: Maama! How far?

Mummy: (snickers) Nna m, I’m fine. Itetagokwa ura?

Narrator: Hehe…I know right? See, Mummy is one of those women who don’t like to be reminded just how fast the world changed in the time it took her to birth, raise and watch two children grow into adulthood. She once said that whenever KC calls her ‘Maama’, she feels like Mama Gee – Gee for General!

KC: Yes, mum, I’m up. Err…I’m preparing for work now so…

Mummy: Have you heard?

Narrator: I mean, who is he kidding? The toad doesn’t run in the daytime for nothing abi? Tsk tsk tsk

KC: (sigh) Heard what, mum?

Mummy: Ebola nu nu. They said you should put salt in hot water and baff with it before six o’clock. It is the only way to escape that disease now oh.

Narrator: KC freezes with one and half of his trouser sleeves on. He wonders if he just heard right.

Mummy: Kaycee? Hellllooowwww?

KC: Mummy, anom ebea. I heard you. Biko where did you hear that one from?

Mummy: Oh so you haven’t heard? Kai, devil is a liar! Oya, go and take your bath now now, with plenty of salt. It’s almost six o’clock oh…evil people. Who knows where they were hiding this news since and people have been dying like fowl, na-anwusi ka okuko! Tufiakwa!

Narrator: By now, KC isn’t listening anymore. He has his trousers all the way on and belted on tight. He has just done up the collar button of his shirt; now he pins on his cuff-links and reaches for his tie.

Mummy: Kenechukwu! Ahn ahn…what is wrong with this network people bikonu

KC: Onwero, mummy, nothing. The network is fine, I heard everything you said.

Mummy: Oh, thank God. Have you plugged in the mmiri oku? Get plenty of salt to add to it and…

KC: Asago m aru, mummy. I’ve already had my bath and I am late for work.

Mummy: Oh! You see their plan? Okwa ifuru ya? See why they did not spread this news kemgbe. Hm…don’t worry, nnaa, you will drink it. Just put cup into one salt of hot water and – chai, what am I even talking sef. (flustered) KC, nwere nnu tinye

KC: Mummy, I heard you the first time. I cannot do that. This is ridiculous nah, don’t you know salt is a serious dehydrating agent and can kill somebody when drunk carelessly? Haba!

Narrator: The man is getting angry now, more flustered than angry really. And Mummy can hear it in his voice – she birthed him after all. The wise woman knows she must change her tactics and quickly, she does.

Mummy: Oh ok, nna m. You are correct. I remember now, it is true. Ngwanu, just pour it on your body. You can boil small water – ntonto mmiri – with salt, run back into the baffroom and pour it on your body sharp sharp.

KC: And be smelling salt-salt when I get to work? Because I am now Ukwu nnu, okwa ya?

Mummy: (laughs)

KC: (hesitates for a split second…and laughs too)

Narrator: I laugh too jare. Heehehehe…okay, let me help you understand. ‘Ukwu nnu’ literally translates to ‘waist of salt’; it is a term used among Igbo folk, to address a lady who has a great future behind her. You know the ones bah? The ladies who are generally well endowed in matters of the waist and behind.

Anyway it happened that as Ada – Mummy’s other child – grew into maturity, she fit the ‘Ukwu nnu’ specifications more and more. Her brother first called her the name in a bid to spite her but she took it very well – too well, in fact – and soon, she was christened Ukwu nnu, in-house only of course.

That’s the joke. Oya back to Mummy, she is saying something…

Mummy: This boy, aru adiro gi. I’m serious joor. It is even Ukwu nnu that sent me the text message; I called her and she told me that she was baffing the children with hot water and salt already.

KC:  mock02

Narrator: Ada, a.k.a Ukwu nnu, is a doctor; not a doctor of Nursing or of Psychology or a native doctor oh – a MEDICAL doctor. She is practicing too, not as much as she would have loved to though because she and her husband have three children all below the age of 7, but practicing nevertheless.

So you know what KC is thinking: “Ada too?”

Mummy: Kaaayyyceee! Talk to me nau.

KC: Mummy, this is silly. How can Ada bath those children in salt water? Do you know how salt feels against the skin when left for long without washing it off? And how it smells?

Mummy: No no…mba nu, not like that. Immediately you baff with it, the salt will penetrate inside your body and kill all the Ebola. The small that remains on your body you can wash out with water and even rub pomade sef; onwekwanu onye ga-ama na iji nnu saa aru? Nobody will know.

KC: Mummy, just stop it please. These things you are saying don’t make any sense to me and even if they did, I am late for work. I can’t go back into the bathroom to have another bath!

Mummy: Ok, nna m, don’t shout oh? But you’re wearing long sleeve and trouser to work, okwa ya?

KC: No, ma. I’m wearing net singlet and iron pant – today is Cultural Day at the office.

Narrator: Oooooh boy…dude is not smiling!

Mummy: (lets out a half-hearted snicker) silly boy. Please can you just take a little hot water, mix it with salt and wash only your hands and head?

KC: Mummy…

Mummy: Please kwanu, nna m. For my sake, biko. I know you don’t believe it but do it ka obi ruo nu nne gi ana. Ehn, please let your mother’s head be at rest nau.

Narrator: If you have a mother, you know what comes next. She will tune her voice to that frequency mothers alone know which will make the inside of the left side of your chest feel liquid. Then she will start to talk in a voice that is choked – but really only SOUNDS choked – on tears. And she will soon remind you how she carried you in her womb for nine months and how your birth was especially the hardest among all her children because your head was so big.

KC: Kai…what kind of wahala is this now?

Mummy: Kenechukwu biko, do this for your mother. I will never beg you to do anything like this again, maka Chukwu – I swear.

Narrator: Story!

KC: (sighs) Fine I have heard. Oya cut the phone and I will do it when…

Mummy: No, don’t worry, I have credit…I want to hear when you’re doing it.

KC:lonely02

Narrator: Poor guy!

So he is fully dressed right now but for his jacket, and the time is just five minutes shy of 6am. If he will avoid the worst of the CMS-Marina traffic, he will need to leave his house latest 6:15. He also knows that these five minutes before 6am will be the most miserable of his day if he doesn’t heed Mummy; so he click-clacks into the kitchen, plugs in the kettle and perches on the kitchen counter waiting for the little water to boil. Through all of this, he tries not to dwell on the fact that his mother is on the other end listening to him bustle around – it feels weird because he thinks that this situation is the kind one only found oneself in with a lover.

The kettle whistles.

Mummy: Enhen, it has boiled.

KC: I know joor, shebi it is me that plugged it?

Mummy: Ok sorry. Ngwa put salt and wash your hands and your head.

Narrator: KC pours a little hot water in a bowl, dilutes it with even less cold water, pours in some salt and begins to wash his hand in it. Then he shuts his eyes tight, bends his head over the sink and starts to wash his head, taking care not to wet the headset stuck in his left ear. He has this odd feeling that he ought to be saying some incantations, to complete the ritual. And he feels thoroughly stupid.

KC: (voice muffled by lips pressed nearly shut against the torrent of warm salty water) You said what?

Narrator: What? She said something? Oh wait…she is praying! Lawd, we nearly missed that. While KC is doing the rituals, Mummy is doing the incantations.

Mummy: (speaking in tongues) Roboskatatatatat Yerimamamamamam Shokotoreskitidididi. Every monitoring spirit of virus and viruses, all the evil Ebola demons trying to steal Kenechukwu’s soul. My son is a son of the king – nwa Eze – and no weapon fashioned against him shall prosper. I send you out now, you stupid Ebola. Holy Ghost…fayaaa! Holy ghost…fayaaaa!!

Narrator: At this point, KC doesn’t know whether to feel loved, grateful or embarrassed. He has ad enough; he calmly removes the headset from his ear and pours the last of the saline mixture over his head, unsuccessfully trying to keep it off his collar. Might as well finish what he started.

He walks back into the bathroom, wipes the wetness off his head and hands with a towel and afterwards, dabs on some cream. He unrolls a strip of gum – he hasn’t had any breakfast – and pops it in his mouth before shrugging on his jacket. Then he grabs his keys and briefcase, and rushes out.

He has just driven past the estate gates when Mummy calls back.

KC: (sigh) Mummy?

Mummy: Nna m, don’t mind this network people. I have prayed for you, you are covered with the blood of Jizoos oh?

KC: (dryly) Amen

Mummy: (exhales) Enhen, they also said you should be eating aki-ilu. You know aki-ilu nau – bitter kola?

KC: (distracted) Unhuh

Mummy: It is bitter oh, but it has antibiotics and anti-fungus. You know I read Biology in Sandwich, I know. It is very powerful oh.

Narrator: KC can’t help the smile that creeps across his face, just before he shakes his head. This woman has indeed mastered the art of being impossible and adorable, both at once.

KC: I know, mum. It is very strong. In fact, I am chewing some now

Narrator: He blows up a tiny gum bubble, pops it and continues to chump with a smile. It is banana-flavored, his favorite.

Mummy: Oh, wonderful. Thank God. Kenechukwu, okwa ima that if you do fast and marry, I won’t be disturbing you like this again. Your wife will be taking good care of you and I will only be calling her as a consultant when…

KC: (bursts out in loud laughter)

Narrator: EL-OOOH-EEL!!!

Mummy: (chuckles)

KC: Mama the mama! Nne m, I have to go now biko. We will talk later, bye bye.

Mummy: Ok, nna m. Bye bye.

Narrator: KC is now sitting in traffic jamming its way up Eko bridge towards the Island. He sighs. She finally did it, he is thinking, got me to go to work late. His phone beeps and he flips open the message; it is a picture file from Kunle:

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Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

 

EBOLA…STILL GOING VIRAL

Still on the hottest issue in the country right about now, Ebola which is quite literally going viral all over; the market for hand sanitizers turned lucrative overnight as the demand rose following speculations that the chemicals were adequate protection against contracting Ebola. We recently learned though that hand sanitizers are anti-bacterial, whereas the Ebola is a virus whose survival abilities are on quite a different tangent from bacteria. Hand sanitizers are not ineffective – as they are great sanitary helps – but washing your hand with soap and water is just as effective, if not more in protecting you from picking up Ebola.

So beware of people with ads like this one I caught on Google…

Ebola

The information above and even more which you will find below were made available to us here at ‘Words Are Work’ by Chika Ibeh. The lovely young lady is a final year student of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and very recently, she sat down with me to share some of the following invaluable knowledge about Ebola.

Ebola Virus Disease is caused by four of five viruses classified in the genus Ebola virus, family Filoviridae, order Mononegavirales. These five viruses include:

  • Bundibugyo virus (BDBV),
  • Ebola virus (EBOV),
  • Sudan virus (SUDV),
  • Taï Forest virus (TAFV).
  • The fifth virus, Reston virus (RESTV), is thought not to be disease-causing in humans.

 

HOW?

Many of us have heard that Ebola is caused primarily by fruit bats, and that we ought to ostracize all manner of bush meat from our diets as a result. If like me, you have wondered about the lack of any obvious connections between the fruit bats and traditional sources of bush meat, the following is for you – How Ebola passes on from fruit bats to man:

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“Bats drop partially eaten fruits and pulp, then terrestrial mammals such as gorillas and duikers feed on these fallen fruits. This chain of events forms a possible indirect means of transmission from the natural host to animal populations, which have led to research towards viral shedding in the saliva of bats. Fruit production, animal behavior, and other factors vary at different times and places that may trigger outbreaks among animal populations. Transmission between natural reservoirs and humans are rare, and outbreaks are usually traceable to a single index case where an individual has handled the carcass of gorilla, chimpanzee, or duiker. Fruit bats are also eaten by people in parts of West Africa where they are smoked, grilled or made into a spicy soup. The virus then spreads person-to-person, especially within families, hospitals, and during some mortuary rituals where contact among individuals becomes more likely.”

 

PREVENTIVE CARE

Preventive care against the contraction of Ebola can be split in three: Pre – care to shore up defences against catching it; Peri – to shore up defences during a suspected outbreak; Post – care around carriers and Ebola-ridden corpses.

PRE-

  • Human consumption of equatorial animals in Africa in the form of bush-meat has been linked to the transmission of diseases to people, including Ebola. Abstinence from consumption of such is hereby strongly advised.
  • Reston Ebola virus (see classification above) in domestic animals should be tested for and controlled. No animal vaccine against RESTV is available. Routine cleaning and disinfection of pig or monkey farms (with sodium hypochlorite or other detergents) should be effective in deactivating the virus.
  • If an outbreak is suspected, the premises should be quarantined immediately. Culling of infected animals, with close supervision of burial or incineration of carcasses, may be necessary to reduce the risk of animal-to-human transmission. Restricting or banning the movement of animals from infected farms to other areas can reduce the spread of the disease.
  • As RESTV outbreaks in pigs and monkeys have preceded human infections, the establishment of an active animal health surveillance system to detect new cases is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and human public health authorities.
  • Pig farms in Africa can play a role in the amplification of infection because of the presence of fruit bats on these farms. Appropriate bio-security measures should be in place to limit transmission. Gloves and other appropriate protective clothing should be worn when handling sick animals or their tissues and when slaughtering animals. In regions where RESTV has been reported in pigs, all animal products (blood, meat and milk) should be thoroughly cooked before eating.

 

PERI

  • Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus is primarily associated with direct or indirect contact with blood and body fluids. It is not always possible to identify patients with EBV early because initial symptoms may be non-specific. For this reason, it is important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, the use of personal protective equipment (according to the risk of splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.
  • Ebola06
  • Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply, in addition to standard precautions, other infection control measures to avoid any exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids and direct unprotected contact with the possibly contaminated environment. When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).
  • Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from suspected human and animal Ebola cases for diagnosis should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.
  • Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients, particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home
  • As an outbreak of Ebola progresses, bodily fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding represent a hazard. Due to lack of proper equipment and hygienic practices, large-scale epidemics occur mostly in poor, isolated areas without modern hospitals or well-educated medical staff. Many areas where the infectious reservoir exists have just these characteristics. In such environments all that can be done is to immediately cease all needle-sharing or use without adequate sterilization procedures, isolate patients, and observe strict barrier nursing procedures with the use of a medical-rated disposable face mask, gloves, goggles, and a gown at all times, strictly enforced for all medical personnel and visitors.

 

POST

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  • Communities affected by Ebola should inform the population about the nature of the disease and about outbreak containment measures, including burial of the dead. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.
  • All epidemics of Ebola have occurred in sub-optimal hospital conditions, where practices of basic hygiene and sanitation are often either luxuries or unknown to caretakers and where disposable needles and autoclaves are unavailable or too expensive. In modern hospitals with disposable needles and knowledge of basic hygiene and barrier nursing techniques, Ebola has never spread on a large scale. In isolated settings such as a quarantined hospital or a remote village, most victims are infected shortly after the first case of infection is present. The quick onset of symptoms from the time the disease becomes contagious in an individual makes it easy to identify sick individuals and limits an individual’s ability to spread the disease by travelling. Because bodies of the deceased are still infectious, some doctors had to take measures to properly dispose of dead bodies in a safe manner despite local traditional burial rituals.

 Ebola07

Life is precious, and singular. Preserve yours

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

EBOLA-RIOUS

Ebola01

The sky was a brooding blue-grey up above as I navigated the human maze of the popular Marina market in Lagos with Chidi. It was well into the rainy season so the atmosphere was more humid than hot; yet there was a cloak of heat that hung in the air, from the many human bodies around. Now and again, I felt it fritter over my skin. And every time, an involuntary shudder swept through me.

Some moments ago back in the car, we were listening to the news updates on the Liberian who had been diagnosed and eventually died of Ebola in Obalende. The newscaster ended on a warning note, advising caution as there was a likelihood that the virus had broken in the city. Marina where we had just arrived is in the vicinity of Obalende. As we parked and joined the traffic of human bodies brushing, shoving, milling in and around it, I whispered to Chidi that if there was even one person in this market infected with the virus, we were all dead. He laughed. And I laughed.

He told me that we should avoid skin contact with other people as much as we could. I told him it was easy for him to say since he was wearing long sleeves and mine were short. The words were scarce out of my mouth when something brushed by me from behind. I stumbled forward a few paces struggling to regain balance even as the young man who had pushed me sped past with a shoebox in his hand.

I felt the chill of it even before I looked down at my fore-arm and saw a wet smear of perspiration that was not mine. Heart thudding, I pulled out my handkerchief and wiped it off as quickly as I could. Chidi had seen it too; he shrugged, smiled a half-smile at me, and barreled on through the crowd of people. I followed, cursing my racing heart to calm the frack down.

“Anyi erugo” Chidi said. We are here.

And he turned left into one of those many half-tracks that served as in-roads to stalls. I followed him, angling my body so that I could slip through the tight enclosure, my left hand in front and my right hand behind glued to my right hip. There were wares all around us, hanging, sitting, sampled in various displays and traders stood by them calling our attention.

“Bros, shebi na me dey call you?”

“Yellow, see am here! I get am”

We studiously ignored them, in the way that every Nigerian who is above market-travelling age learns. Just as I made a right turn still following Chidi, I felt a hand grab and hold on to my right hand. In the split second before I yanked my hand back, my skin registered the moist texture of the palms and fingers like hooks that dug into the flesh of my palm. Pointed hooks injecting Ebola into my blood stream!

I saw red as I turned on the guy who owned the hand.

“Guy, no dey touch me anyhow” I yelled. “You no know say Ebola don enter Lagos?”

I do not recall now much of his features but standing out on his face, were his mouth which stood agape and eyes which vacillated between startled and wary, gauging my sanity. A palpable tension enveloped us as his fellow customer-hunting traders stopped to stare at me; other passers-by also paused mid-stride for the tiniest of intervals to look me over before heading on.

I spun around and stalked off, brushing past Chidi who had also stopped at my outburst. Shame washed over me like cool water of ‘the living spring’; it took a better part of my confidence to walk away without cringing. My eyes stared up ahead, and my hands stayed down at my sides, clenched into fists – just in case anyone else got adventurous.

Chidi – heavens bless his soul – made no mention of the incident as we meandered through Marina buying items. Interestingly however, standing just as tall beside the shame I felt was an indignant conviction that my actions had been justified. I mean, how dare he grab my hand like that! Hadn’t he heard of Ebola?

We bought all we had come for and were on our way back to the car when I remembered a certain tray of roasted groundnuts I had spotted on one of the major in-roads. I had mentally booked it for later, marking the location of the woman seller with Sweet Sensation, an eatery just a few meters away. Chidi waited for me in the car with our purchases while I retraced my steps.

Just as I remembered, the woman sat there in front of the eatery with her tray of groundnuts. The groundnuts also looked just as I remembered – dry and golden-brown with dark brown lines through each nut that looked like frozen chocolate.

“Mama, one bottle how much?”

“Nnaa” she greeted me, “sooso three-fifty” People could always tell I am Igbo just by looking at my face, bearded or not. It was a cross I had resigned to carrying with pride, after getting over the disappointing restrictions it placed on my mischievous mind-adventures.

I scooped some of the nuts, threw them in my mouth and crunched down. They were just as I liked them – crunchy, sexy, smack in the perfect spot on that wide-lipped precipice between burnt and succulent. I knew I would buy them even if they were double the price she had said.

“Nyenum ya one-fifty” I haggled. Give it to me for one-fifty. God forbid that I buy something without haggling.

“Nwoke o-o-ocha!” Mama sexy-groundnuts cajoled. “Mba kwa, price ahu m gwara gi ka ono” She wasn’t budging.

As is common knowledge, being Igbo is no advantage in business with a fellow Igbo. Also my batteries must have died because my charms were clearly not working. So I gave up and asked her to fill up a bottle for me. While I waited, I scooped some more of the nuts from her tray into my mouth.

I was turning them into my palm from the bottle and munching as I joined Chidi in the car.

“You saw them ehn?” he asked needlessly.

I flashed a gloating grin at him with teeth that still busily chewed. I offered the bottle to him so he could share of my treasure but he declined with a shake of head.

“Ichoro ita?” I asked, puzzled. Chidi loved groundnuts.

“Ehn-ehn,” he shook his head again. “My hands are dirty”

I froze.

Like of a horror movie in slow motion, my mind retraced my steps through the market – the hand that had grabbed mine earlier, and the ones that had followed suit afterwards; the items I had touched; the notes of currency I had counted, and received; the sellers whose hands I had shaken after a transaction. Then the tape slowly, very slowly rolled up to Mama sexy-groundnuts – the groundnuts which she peeled with her hands, winnowed with a flurry of breeze from her mouth and packed also with her hands; the man who had been leaving her stall as I arrived, and the hand he had dipped into the tray of groundnuts as jara; the same tray I had dipped my own hands and retrieved groundnuts; groundnuts which I had thrown in my mouth, savored and swallowed.

The formerly sexy groundnuts turned to ash in my mouth, as a funeral dirge began to play in my head.

Chae! E-B-O-L-A!

 


 

STOP THE PANIC…ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE INSTEAD AND APPLY WISDOM.

I found this on Facebook and thought to share…

US STATE DEPARTMENT EBOLA ALERT

In order to help our Embassy Community better understand some of the key points about the Ebola virus we have consulted with our medical specialists at the U S State Department and assembled this list of bullet points worded in plain language for easy comprehension.

Our medical specialists remind everyone that they should be following the guideline from the center for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.

  • The suspected reservoirsfor Ebola are fruit bats.
  • Transmission to humans is thought to originate from infected bats or primates that have become infected by bats.
  • Undercooked infected bat and primate (bush) meat transmits the virus to humans.
  • Human to human transmission is only achieved by physical contact with a person who is acutely and gravely ill from the Ebola virus or their body fluids.
  • Transmission among humans is almost exclusively among caregiver family members or health care workers tending to the very ill.
  • The virus is easily killed by contact with soap, bleach, sunlight, or drying. A washing machine will kill the virus in clothing saturated with infected body fluids.
  • A person can incubate the virus without symptoms for 2-21 days, the average being 5-8 days before becoming ill. THEY ARE NOT CONTAGIOUS until they are acutely ill.
  • Only when ill does the viral load express itself first in the blood and then in other bodily fluids (to include vomit, feces, urine, breast milk, semen and sweat).
  • If you are walking around you are not infectious to others.
  • There are documented cases from Kikwit, DRC of an Ebola outbreak in a village that had the custom of children never touching an ill adult. Children living for days in small one room huts with parents who died from Ebola did not become infected.
  • You cannot contract Ebola by handling money, buying local bread or swimming in a pool.

 

Life is precious, and singular. Preserve yours.

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

Ebola

ebola virus03lagos01

The Lagos State Government on Friday confirmed that the Liberian native, who was admitted in a private hospital in Lagos over a reported case of Ebola disease, passed away on Thursday night. The 40-year-old Liberian working for a West African organization in Monrovia reportedly arrived Lagos on a flight from Monrovia via Lome, Togo on Sunday July 20, 2014.

Initial tests carried out on the victim at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) confirmed that the man contracted Ebola but authorities as at this morning, said that the result of a confirmatory test was still being awaited from Dakar, Senegal to conclude the tests.

Addressing a Press Conference on the development at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, said that the ministry had started collaborating with all other agencies to treat the body and ensure that it is properly disposed.

He added that because the victim was a foreign national, certain diplomatic steps have to be taken, which includes contacting the Liberian Embassy and ensuring the sanitization of the hospital where the victim was hospitalized before his death.

Dr Idris also stated that the ministry was in contact with the hospital to ensure that the corpse of the victim is sanitized and that the virus is killed to prevent it from spreading.

He also said that steps were being taken by the ministry in collaboration with federal agencies to man all the border points in the state towards preventing any case of anyone with suspected symptoms coming into the state.

The Commissioner explained that the ministry was also engaged in contact tracing with all those whom the victim came into contact with before his death and that the manifest of the aircraft which brought him to Lagos has been obtained by the ministry.

He reiterated that all of such people would be questioned and observed in the next 21 days to ascertain their state of health, adding that the State Government would also set up a treatment centre in case of any other reported case of the Ebola disease in the state.

In addition, the Special Adviser on Public Health, Dr Yewande Adesina, cautioned members of the general public to desist from sending panicky messages via their phones and on social media about the issue.

She stressed that the State Government was on top of the situation, and this explains the reason why there had been media briefings periodically on developments about the case since it broke.

Additionally, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba, said that the residents of the state should go about their lawful businesses, with the highest assurances that effective health measures have been put in place to guard against the spread of the disease from any source.

Also present at the briefing were the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji and Permanent Secretary, Primary Health Care Board, Dr Oguntimehin. (culled from ChannelsTV report)

You will recall I first posted about this disease in March when it was still wrecking havoc in DRC and later in April when we first became aware of the potentials of it crossing into Nigeria. Apparently, it has. Nobody seems to be listening to any of the talk about the government being ‘on top of the situation’, as should be expected. I already got a number of text messages, broadcasts and even calls from worried family and friends.

There are a lot of things I am unsure of, especially about the information being spread about preventive measures against Ebola a.k.a The Dumb Virus. But a few of the them which make sense as prevention – not just against Ebola – are listed below:

1. Do not buy and eat any fruit directly without washing it first very well.

2. Try and avoid unnecessary hand shaking; in Nigeria, we shake hands for the entire Europe and Africa put together. If you must shake hands, keep your hands away from your mouth and either use a hand sanitizer or wash with soap and water afterwards. Unlike HIV, Ebola can be spread through contact with body sweat or saliva, so be careful.

3. Avoid eating any meat from apes e.g monkeys and its families. For now, you might want to stay away from eating any meat that you do not know it’s source, most especially beloved ‘suya’ and ‘kilishi’ – they were never healthy anyways. If you must eat meat, buy and cook it yourself with sufficient salt, water and whatever else is used to boil meat.

4. In case you still need to be told, bathe as often as you can. With soap.

5. Stay informed. Watch, read and listen to the news daily; 30minutes away from Telemundo or your ’50 Shades of Grey’ will not kill you, but Ebola could.

Life is precious and singular. Preserve yours.

Mention me @0jukwu_martin on twitter

NIGERIA FACES EBOLA THREAT

Warning: the pictures contained in this post are graphic and might be psychologically disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised

News article culled from Daily Times NG:

Finally, the Federal Government on Wednesday admitted that Nigeria was in danger with the rate at which the Ebola virus had been moving eastward towards the country.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, raised the alarm while answering questions from State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Chukwu reiterated that the threat being posed by the Ebola virus was real.

Though, he said Nigeria had not reported any case of the disease, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would soon produce jingles in various languages to sensitise Nigerians to the threat posed by the virus, which currently has no vaccine and treatment.

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The minister warned Nigerians not to wait for three days as customary of malaria fever before seeking medical attention, saying such a period was enough for an infected person to die.

He said, “Ebola has been moving eastward towards Nigeria as well and we are already facing danger from the Central African Republic, even with what is happening in Congo, people are also migrating to Chad and Cameroon are also in our borders.

“So, Nigeria is in danger but we have recently said that in addition to the leaflets that we are producing for Lassa and other fevers, we will now emphasise Ebola fever.

“As I speak to you, we have already approved four jingles to be produced in various languages for the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to be aired on radio and television stations and newspaper adverts.

“Then we are working with all groups, just like we are doing for polio. Religious bodies, communities, traditional rulers and the media  which is most important in this venture will help us to play your role by educating Nigerians.

“There is no vaccine, so it is not a question of government has not produced vaccines for Ebola or Lassa fever. If there was vaccine, government will certainly buy a stock and keep; and there is no specific treatment.”

The minister explained that while a special type of rat spreads infection for Lassa fever, bats, he said, were responsible for Ebola.

He said one could be infected by eating fruits that had been contaminated with the virus by bats.

Chukwu urged Nigerians to apply personal hygiene.

“We will soon review our adverts for things like anti-malaria because they still say if you have fever, take this for three days, if you don’t improve go and see your doctor. But we are changing all that because now if you wait three days for Ebola, you are dead,” he said.

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Life is precious and singular. Preserve yours.