Less contagious virus, yet kills more Nigerians than Ebola

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.

Categories: Health, Nigeria, Politics

Tags: ,

17 replies

  1. Very well written but as a Nigerian, I’ve found a reason why Ebola, definitely not Lassa fever, should be in my dear country Nigeria. Don’t crucify me yet. Here’s my reason http://wp.me/p4vcHC-aD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Thanks so much for spreading awareness on this hemorrhagic virus. We learned about Lassa Fever in school and it indeed seems prevalent in Nigeria and in places where rats reside. We need to live clean lives and beware of the foods that enter our bodies. The urine of these rodents are enough to kill, so washing our hands and even washing the tops of the canned drinks we enjoy (these drinks may be stored in places where rodents reside) are key. I hope people catch on and realize the virus is real- even if it’s not as devastating and receiving wide media coverage as Ebola.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Darkowaa for the comment. Long time!

      Nigeria for example, I think we have to treat filth as antisocial behaviour to sink in. If the environment is filthy, it is hard to claim our homes are clean.

      Many of our homes, schools, markets, religious buildings still lack toilets and where they have, it is just too few for the proportion of the crowd. Then w’ll talk about creating dumping ground out of site that rubbish collectors/individuals can use.

      You see, if these are sorted, rats infestation will be limited. Fingers crossed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely, controlling rodents is key. Our priorities on this continent are quite warped. This should be something of concern. People shouldn’t be suffering from Lassa Fever in 2016. *sigh* Thanks again for this post ; you always highlight important issues going on in Nigeria/Africa! kudos 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m with you Darkowaa with your support of Folakemi (FK) on this topic.
          Others may think that by not talking about it, somehow the problem doesn’t exist, when in reality that is definitely not the case.

          You are right in 2016, issues of hygiene such as Lassa Fever should have been consigned to the history books – kind of symptomatic of the lack of progress to deal with basic essential requirements for modern day living.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. My President, you know in Naija, our mind set will be…”they tried to discourage us from Bush meat, it didn’t work, now they want us to stop eating rat (I don’t eat this by the way).” And so the typical naija person would ignore the case against lassa fever. Besides, where will they dump the refuse when there are no proper means of disposal in sight?

    God will have to help us sha, whilst we help ourselves by doing the needful continued education, creating awareness and proper waste disposal regardless of what’s available or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In many parts of the world, rats are considered ‘vermin’ and are not considered fit for human consumption (only under extreme circumstances like famine or war – would people resort to eating them, otherwise it is strictly off the menu). It seems that Nigeria is courting death due to lack of hygiene on many fronts, not only in the home by slack attention to keeping food uncontaminated, but outside the home, where people feel free to dispose of waste in any manner they see fit thinking that it is a ‘free for all’ – this ‘laissez faire’ attitude has to brought to an end and quickly and replaced by an attitude of responsibility for one’s community. When people are become more clean and responsible in their behaviour, then the incidence of this disease will reduce, until then people will have to learn the hard way.

    You would have thought with the revelation that the inappropriate storing of ‘garri’ in outside unhygenic markets would have prompted a strict clamp down and enforcement of storage conditions for grains and tubers by local authorities followed up by routine and rigorous checking instead, all we saw in the video was people dodging the blame – when clearly they are indeed part of the problem. The authorities are squealing that they can’t get hold of enough medication – they are overlooking the main point – ‘prevention is better than cure’. They are falling well short of the mark on this crucial point, granted medication is required for those who have contracted the illness, but with prevention the demand for medication will decline. Have food vendors been educated and been monitored for following strict hygiene and food preparation practices? Are there inspectors, who regularly follow up and enforce standards – most likely as not. Lassa fever can be taken as an indication to raise the bar as regards hygiene.

    No one can accuse you of ducking difficult issues. I agree with swo8.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks jco.

      To answer your question, there are sanitary inspectors in some areas of Lagos and Ogun State, I know this because of family living there – but their operation can be a lot better.
      For example, if you don’t want people dumping rubbish in a stream, the best thing is to provide a big and schedule prompt collection dates. This is not the case with many that I have seen.

      In my area, traditionally, we do not eat house rats, mainly because of filth and I think it was seen as disease carrier too. House rat is called ọ̀fán-àn (pronounced as ọfan, not entirely sure of correct spelling) this is the big greyish colour similar to the one in the picture above.

      The small mouse at home is called ‘ẹdá’, we don’t eat this either for this same reason, however, growing up I have seen people eating all of these.

      Agreed, taking public sanitation and hygiene seriously will safe us a lot of grief, but sadly, many people don’t see it anymore.

      One point that people seem to ignore was the increasing travels within the country so it is a lot easier to transmit virus, and where the cause of death is buried in secrecy, we have a long way to go.


      • FK, you truly are deep mine of information – thank you.
        One can’t plead being a developed country as an excuse for living in filth – as not all developing countries are filthy. One doesn’t even need to be able to speak English, all local languages have their words for filth and a whole host of proverbs on the subject.
        I would put it down to indiscipline and slackness.
        Children and those who frequent religious establishments need to be made aware of the consequences of their actions.
        The disposal of rubbish should be regulated, ie heard some northern migrants down south – perform ‘have a go’ collection – where they charge to remove the rubbish, only to dump somewhere in the local vicinity, hence not adding any value to the situation and only complicating matters.
        How to prevent the migration of rats is challenging, as they are very mobile, smart and inventive. Nigeria is not an island unlike Australia (where goods are freqenutly quarantined and disposed of), also they (Nigerian customs staff) can’t control the movement of peoples across borders be it legally or illegally, so how to deal with hard to spot rats and mice is a mystery. They can use roads, gutters, vehicles, rubbish tips, vegetation to hide amongst etc. So how to stop that will need some careful thought and consistent application.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post, Fola.

    Liked by 1 person

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