Nigerians indeed were startled when the news made the rounds of another Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the country. We were not only shocked but worried about how the virus got into the country for a second time after Nigeria had been declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation, WHO, less than a year after the epidemic almost brought us to our knees.
But we are indeed gladdened that the Federal Government has debunked such reports that there is no resurgence of the Ebola virus in the country. Announcing government’s declaration, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute, stated that no Ebola case has resurfaced in the country.
“The Federal Government hereby confirms that there is no Ebola Virus Disease in Nigeria and thus Nigeria remains Ebola free,” Mr. Awute re-emphasised. He explained that the 21-year-old student, the suspected EVD carrier, who was taken to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, by family members and was admitted, was clinically tested and the result showed that there was no Lassa fever or Ebola fever found in him.
Giving further details on the issue, the arrow head of the Ministry of Health, said that though, the patient was admitted with bleeding, diarrhoea, skin rashes and mouth lesions with a temperature of 37 degrees centigrade, with vital stable signs, a tentative diagnosis of vital hemorrhagic fever test that was carried out ruled out Lassa fever. According to him, blood samples of the patient was taken to the Irrua Lassa Specialist Hospital laboratory, where tests for hemorrhagic fever diseases such as EVD, Lassa fever , Dengue fever and other viruses were carried out by a Rapid Response Team from the National Field Epidemiology and he didn’t show signs of EVD.
He announced also that the student who had never travelled out of Calabar before the incidence, finally died seven hours after admission. It is unthinkable that another Ebola scare will not shock Nigerians when reports indicated that 15 patients were already quarantined at the accident and emergency ward of the University of Calabar teaching hospital at the time of the report. The alarming figures reportedly included nine nurses, one doctor as well as four health workers and a patient, who was said to have manifested the symptoms of the killer disease. They were reportedly isolated and under keen medical watch and attention.
Expectedly, the fear of any more epidemics should cause panic among Nigerians going by how the first incident broke out, after a carrier of the disease, Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer sneaked into the country. Most importantly, the country should not be caught napping in case of a resurgence of the Ebola virus or other deadly diseases. Nigeria must be ready to rise to the occasion, just as it did last year when the virus was found on our shores. Similarly, we must continue to help in the eradication of the disease in Guinea and Sierra Leone to ensure that the threat to Nigerian lives is greatly diminished.
While we welcome government’s prompt response to the Calabar-scare, we further urge the appropriate health authorities to keep in mind WHO’s warning that though Nigeria was certified Ebola free, the battle was not over. According to WHO’s Country Director, Ruiz Gama Vaz, when he officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola, “The outbreak in Nigeria has been defeated. Nigeria’s success is an indication that the disease can be conquered in the rest of West Africa. The battle has been won, but the war is not over yet, since Ebola is still in West Africa.”
Therefore, we see the Calabar report whether real or imagined, as a caution sign to take proactive steps to ensure that the disease, which is still being battled in some West African countries, does not re-emerge in Nigeria. In addition, if we must continue to remain Ebola free, we must observe good hygienic behaviour that includes hand washing, hand sanitisation and general environmental cleanliness as well as ensuring safe burial practices, while also reporting suspected cases to the Ministry of Health and appropriate government quarters. It is only by these means we can continue to stave off this dreadful disease and others like it.

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