Nigeria News
The Good, Bad And Ugly Of Ebola Virus Disease


The outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country was an eye opener to both the government and the governed. There are many sides to it as WINIFRED OGBEBO writes.

Since the death of the Liberian importer of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Patrick Sawyer, in Lagos over two months ago, the fear of the virus has remained the beginning of wisdom for every Nigerian.

Despite assurances by the federal and state governments that the disease is being contained, many Nigerians have not only remained sceptical but also chosen to err on the side of caution.

As the panic spreads, so does the propaganda surrounding its cure.

Nigerians woke up on August 5, 2014 to be inundated by text messages on how bathing with a mixture of salt and water prevents the Ebola virus. People who got the message were advised to spread the ‘good news’ to their friends and loved ones. One of the messages read: “Important news to avoid Ebola disease. Everybody should add salt into water and bathe this morning, and then drink the same solution by day.”

The Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, got one of such messages and quickly reacted, describing it as “wicked and malicious.”

The brine solution, a mix of large salt quantity in water, suggested in the claim, actually may cause more damage, he said.

That was not all. The bitter kola was bandied about as a cure for the deadly disease. This rumour immediately catapulted the sale of bitter kola around the country to an all time high. Before you could say Ebola, many Nigerians had gone in search of the bitter kola.

At the popular Akpan Andem market in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, five nuts or seeds of bitter kola sold for as much as N100 as against N10 before and in some instance, buyers paid about N200 for six or seven of the nuts depending on the sizes.

A hawker along Abak road, Joseph Okon who could not understand the sudden increase in the demand for bitter kola told LEADERSHIP that he was smiling home every day from the sale of bitter kola.

Another bitter kola seller at Urua Okpoko at Ekom Iman junction, Mrs. Alice Ukponam, said the outbreak of the Ebola virus was a blessing in disguise for her and others in her line of business as the patronage for bitter kola had increased.

“Many people now besiege the market looking for the magic kola which is said to be the only solution and cure for the dreaded Ebola virus. We thank God o, the bitter kola is now well sought after, unlike before when buyers come to us only during ceremonies such as marriage and burial or child dedication,” Ukponam said.

A secondary school teacher at Mbioto 1, in Etinan Local Government Area of the state, Mr. Ebong Enebong who spoke on the sudden demand for the bitter kola, said he did not doubt the efficacy of the kola since it had been used for centuries to treat cough and chest colds in traditional medicine.

He explained that bitter kola had been used for centuries in traditional folk medicine to treat ailments from cough to fever and was still being extensively used in the preparation of herbal drugs either as stimulant supplement or as herbal remedies.

“Bitter kola is the number one sexual enhancement for weak men. No other product can match the sexual benefits of bitter kola as it gives unlimited performance in bed. This has made the kola a hot cake before now,” Enebong said.

But the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who heads a national communication strategy against Ebola counselled Nigerians not to listen to any of the unfounded claims flying around in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, warning that they could be doing more harm than good to themselves.

Then, before the Ebola outbreak, a bottle of Dettol hand sanitiser gel sold at N250, but all that has changed. The price has shot up just as the patronage has increased.

Ms. Janet Okolo told LEADERSHIP she had actually bought three for her children at N250 each before the Ebola outbreak and was surprised when she went back a month after and was told that they had run out of stock.

“When I went to buy in other super markets, I was told the price is now N1,000, which is really astronomical,” she said.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) last Wednesday raised the alarm over the proliferation of fake hand sanitisers in the market. It quarantined over 104 brands of sanitisers even as it arrested three Nigerian businessmen for alleged importation of expired hand sanitisers and fake Ebola test kits into the country.

While the bitter kola sellers are counting their gains, the bush meat sellers are bemoaning their losses.

The government had counselled against the sale and consumption of bats and bush meat as a way of checking the spread of the virus which scientists say is transmitted through the handling of infected wild animals.

The sellers of bust meat across the country have been lamenting their misfortune as most Nigerians have continued to shun bush meat in their determination to keep the Ebola virus away. The once delicacy in many homes is now seriously being avoided.

LEADERSHIP check at the popular Ekiosa, Uselu, Santana and Ikpoba Hill markets in Edo State known for assorted bush meat ranging from grass cutter, squirrel, monkey, antelope, and alligator etc, revealed low patronage from buyers.

Mrs. Rose Osawanta, who has been selling bush meat for over 15 years in Benin, the state capital said since the outbreak of the virus, some of her big time customers who own eateries had not placed order with her again.

“This is not the best of times for us, even when we try to explain to them, they refuse to buy fearing that bust meat is the cause of the disease. You can see yourself that only those selling fish and chickens are having sales. We really want government to do something urgent because we have never seen this kind of thing before,” she said.

Another bush meat seller who declined to disclose his name simply added “you people should first of all find out if the late Sawyer that died in Nigeria ate bush meat? For me, nothing will discourage me from eating any kind of bush meat. In the past, it was HIV/AIDS and today, is Ebola,” he stated.

For some curious reason, however, a number of Nigerians believe the virus is either a western invention to exploit Africa through drug sales or in short, a play being acted out by western actors and directors.

Afolabi Kola said, “America and their play… America created it so they must have its drug. Don’t be fooled by this white play, they did it just like in their film.”

Another respondent, Daluta Haruna said, “We already know, this Ebola is not a natural disease. It is a disease created by the whites to facilitate the process of exploiting our resources.”

But Governor Wada Idris of Kogi State said, ‘ignorance and disbelief are the leading cause of the spread of Ebola”. He said Kogi had begun a sensitization of health workers who are now going round the rural communities to spread the message of Ebola while enlightening the populace on possible signs of the virus.

Meanwhile, the director, Disease Control and Immunization, of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Emmanuel Abanida, has called for caution in spreading and dissemination of information so as not to heat up the system.

“Please we all need to be alert, the virus is not a respecter of persons, if a child has fever and you give panadol and the fever does not subside then begin to suspect the worst and rush to the nearest health facility.

“The virus multiples very fast and can affect hundreds of persons at a time through transfer of fluids”, he warned.

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