Doubts over Rivers’ readiness to battle Ebola
Is Rivers State set to conquer Ebola if it rears its head? The government and other stakeholders say yes, but a few believe that sensitisation on the deadly disease, which has so far been confined to Lagos, started late and is not enough.
Rivers State Commissioner for Health Dr. Sampson Parker said the state invited doctors from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, United States to train health workers on how to handle likely Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases.
Dr. Parker said the Rotimi Amaechi administration was being proactive because of the state’s proximity to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and other countries affected by the deadly disease, especially by sea. “We want to assure Rivers people that the government, which effectively handled the outbreak of the Lassa fever, will also tackle the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Our health workers have been kitted to handle the EVD, even though no case has been reported.”
But some medical experts have argued that the government responded too slowly on the Ebola virus unlike other state in the federation.
“It was just last week that the ministry of health started making noise about the Ebola case, now they have brought in foreign doctors, saying they are ready to fight Ebola. But the question is: what has state government done to sensitise the teeming population in the state, especially at the grassroots level? The state government and its agency must institutionalise communication and awareness campaign about Ebola virus in all the local government areas because prevention is better than cure,” Dr. Emmanuel Ohwor said.
Dr. Chijioke Igwe said since Rivers State has not recorded any case yet, awareness should be the main concern.
“So the primary concern of the state government is how to create awareness about the deadly virus in the state. As I am talking to you now, many people in this state still believe that the story of Ebola virus is untrue. So, this is our major challenge for now and not to bring doctors from abroad. Our people need to know about Ebola. The UPTH, BMSH and other hospitals in the state should send team of their staff to the rural area to educate the people.”
Dr. Sunny Chinenye, a consultant Physician who spoke at an Ebola awareness campaign organised by the University of Port Harcourt, said those living in the rural areas should be the first to be sensitised about Ebola virus.
His reason: “These are people that set trap for bat and play with monkeys. They have access to bush -meat than those who live in the city. The culture of washing hands always is alien to them. They respect the tradition so much that they could sleep with the bodies of their relatives or loved ones. Of course, the body of an Ebola patient has more of the virus than when the patient was alive. So, the state must not relax. The government should put a proactive measure to contain the virus.”
For Prof. Aaron Ojule, Chief Medical Director, University Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), his concern is that the state should prepare for Ebola as if it were already there.
He said: “We cannot claim ignorance of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Port Harcourt. We may say it will not come but what if it comes, what we do? We must prepare for it and put adequate measures in place to face the challenge. To be frank, nobody knows which state is next.”
Prof. Ojule said the hospital’s management has educated health workers on Ebola virus, especially those working at the laboratories. He said the awareness campaign was also to prepare the health workers on the change in job ethics.
“I want to thank the hospital’s Infection Awareness Committee for putting this workshop together. This is mainly to educate the health workers on the need to be alert by handling every patient, even if the person has headache, he or she will be regarded as a potential carrier of Ebola disease. This decision is in line with the Federal Government’s declaration of state of emergency on Ebola virus. It will assist the members of staff of the hospital to stay alert on any patient whether positive on Ebola virus or not.
“The hospital must prepare for the challenge of the outbreak of Ebola disease by creating awareness to doctors and nurses whom reports and evidence have shown are at the greatest risk due to their professional calling. We are working with both the state and federal governments to see how we can contain the epidemic. We must protect ourselves, at the same time we don’t pray that any case should come but what if it comes? The doctors and nurses must be prepared.”
He added that the hospital was working hard to improve its diagnostic capability.
Another expert, Dr. Awopeju Temitayo, said the laboratory workers must be more conscious than any other person in the case of Ebola, adding that the room where an Ebola patient is being kept and the laboratory where the blood sample is examined are highly infectious and should be avoided except with safety wears.
“I think I will suggest that we should be more careful at our various homes and environment. Some of us sleep in the same house with rat and we don’t care to chase them away from our homes. From today, I want to plead that we should kill the rats and ensure that no other ones come into our house again. This is because we don’t know where the rat is coming from. It may have contact with animals living with Ebola virus. People must also learn how to avoid fresh meat, stop touching fresh meat; those in abattoir are in a very high risk because they touch fresh meat. If that meat has Ebola virus, then the virus is more effective in fresh meat than when it is boiled or dried.”
Significantly, many in the state still consider Ebola a myth. A visit to motor parks and drinking joints showed that the ‘word’ Ebola sounded funny to this class of people. For them, it is another trick by the Whiteman to deceive Africans.
Mr. Boniface Nduka, a bus assistant popularly called conductor, said: “Please don’t allow people to deceive you; it was HIV/AIDS to Lassa, now it is Ebola. How did they know that the name is Ebola? Oh, the Whiteman has been using our brain. If this disease kills the way they are talking about it now, we would have been in the grave. Now think about it, how many Whitemen have contacted the disease?”
A passenger, who spoke with Niger Delta Report on a bus heading to Mile 4 axis of Port Harcourt, Chinaka Ugomati, said: “There is nothing called Ebola disease, it is another strategy for America to make money from the African countries. The Americans know about the disease; that was they were able to stabilise their citizens who contracted the Ebola disease. Where do they see the drugs? Believe me, they are after our oil; they want to wipe us out as to take our oil.”
The argument by Ugomati and Nduka show that more awareness still needs to be done.
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