Ebola campaign was the biggest citizens’ awareness campaign I have ever witnessed in Nigeria. The response after the Liberian man fell ill was timely, efficient and it worked.
Across the country, from cities down to our villages, information on what to look out for and what to do in case of any unexplained symptoms were fantastic. Media and word of mouth used extensively.
As highly contagious as Ebola was, Nigeria has only 7 (or 8) fatality. Death of 8 people is too many but it could have been worse given it is a highly contagious virus plus what has happened in the neighbouring countries.
Lassa fever, relatively easier to control infection than Ebola with higher chance of survival if diagnosed and treated early, yet from January 2016 to date has killed more than 130 people why?.
One would think Nigeria ministry of health will take Lassa virus as serious as Ebola, but that was not the case.
The difference is that Ebola started from Lagos, the commercial capital so a bit hard to ignore. The pressure on Nigeria government to do the needful was enormous, more so from the outside.
Lassa virus apparently since 2012 has seen increasing number of infected people per year, this year has the highest recorded fatalities, infection so far, also it has spread to many states than ever before.
So questions were being asked why the spike in number of infected people this year? And how can we best inform people?
From a non medical perspective, endemic such as this deserve the same awareness as we did for Ebola, not just within affected regions but it is important that everyone is aware and armed with information on how to stay safe.
A few days ago a lady asks ‘this Lassa virus they are talking about, is it real? People have been eating rats for a long time and are always fine, now they try to scare us with all these talk of a new virus when we are just recovering from Ebola scare.’
It was because of this question that I read up a bit on Lassa virus, first discovered in Borno in 1969 when two nurses died from the infection.
Rat infestation is a big problem in market places and homes – this is no surprise as our waste disposal in public places encourages that.
I don’t have any reason to doubt Lassa virus is real as there are enough evidence tracing the virus to its origin. I am aware that most of our people die needlessly and often in time the closest family may not be able to tell specifically the cause of death – this is one of the reasons we probably haven’t heard about it a lot in the south.
Even when the illness is properly diagnosed, it is still very common to hide the nature of sickness as we are creatures that stigmatised just about everything as shown in this video clip 2:14 where the man recovering from Lassa virus infection hides his identity for fear of being outcasted even when no longer contagious.
To the lady who doubted Lassa virus outbreak news, I sent her this wikipedia link as well as this video link below as it is a bit more detailed.
I don’t think we all have to be at the danger of Lassa virus to see the need to dispose our household rubbish more responsibly.