Nigeria has shown that with knowledge, rapid and coordinated interventions and painstaking follow-up, the deadly Ebola virus can not only be stopped in its tracks, it can be vanquished. This has made the country the global reference point on how to successfully combat the virus. Is the rest of Africa paying close attention? Frederick Mordi has the rest of the story.
On 20th October 2014, exactly three months after a sick Liberian diplomat named Patrick Sawyer brought the dreaded Ebola virus into Lagos, Nigeria, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially certified the country Ebola-free.
The doctors at a private hospital in Lagos where Sawyer was rushed to on his arrival from Liberia, had initially treated him for malaria which he claimed he had, before they discovered the chilling truth. By then it was too late to take extra precautions. He died five days later, triggering a chain of transmissions that killed eight out of 20 infected persons in Nigeria.
Before the WHO certification, Nigeria had received accolades from the international community for the professional manner in which it contained the disease from spreading. Indeed, only two out of 36 states in the federation recorded Ebola cases: Lagos, where the outbreak was first reported, and Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Nigeria's health officials have had to trace and quarantine hundreds of people who had contact with the primary cases for 21 days, as part of concerted nationwide efforts at preventing the spread of Ebola that has reportedly killed about 4,922 in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, as at the end of October this year. There are also reported Ebola cases outside the African continent, with fatalities.
Following Nigeria's success in eradicating Ebola, it has now become a reference point for other countries still battling with the disease. The WHO in particular, commended the government for ensuring effective coordination of the response that included the setting up of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), a 'war-room' of sorts, in partnership with the private sector.
The country may have won the Ebola battle, but the WHO country representative in Nigeria, Riu Gama Vaz, has warned Nigerians not to let down their guard as the war is still raging in other parts of West Africa. Vaz gave the advice in Abuja, while officially declaring Nigeria Ebola-free.
He said: "Today, 20th October, Nigeria reached that 42-day mark and is now considered free of Ebola transmission...