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Shifting Sands

The news that ebola virus disease (EVD) had arrived in Nigeria made me despair for the future of this country.

The previous few months were awful. In April 200 schoolgirls from the Chibok Government Secondary School were kidnapped and two bombs killed 88 people and injured over 200 at the Nyonya Motor park bus station near Abuja.  An explosion in the Apapa area of Lagos was rumoured to be the work of a suicide bomber. Trips to the shopping mall now involved having the car checked for incendiary devices- a routine we’d previously undergone only when visiting the premier hotels.

Bad as they seemed, these were innocent days for Lagosians.

On July 20, Liberian/American national Patrick Sawyer flew into Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. He was suffering from ebola virus disease (EVD). Sawyer later died in the First Consultants Medical Centre in Obalende, Lagos.

Sawyer told the medical team on duty he had malaria but hospital staff became suspicious he had EVD when 2 tests for malaria proved negative. When told he may have EVD, Sawyer became agitated and attempted to leave the hospital. Several hospital staff were infected after treating Sawyer and restraining him. A fifty year old nurse died days after treating Sawyer and more were to follow, Including senior endocrinologist Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh.

We braced ourselves for the worst, knowing that if EVD reached the general population the chances of containing the disease was remote. Thankfully, the worst didn’t eventuate.

At present the total number of deaths from EVD in Nigeria is 7 (5 in Lagos, 2 in Port Harcourt). 12 people have survived the infection and 350 contacts under medical surveillance have been discharged. 16 people will remain under surveillance until the 21day incubation period has passed. The Federal government has approved the re-opening of schools for the 22 September although this is being resisted by the Lagos state educational authorities. As of today, no active cases of EVD are being treated in Nigeria. We feel relieved but remain vigilant.

Jeff and I have had some adventures resulting from the presence of EVD in Lagos. On July 31 we flew out of Lagos for Namibia to go on Safari. We would also be visiting Botswana and Zambia. We boarded our flight to Johannesburg with no issues and spent a pleasant day in the city shopping at a mall in the east of the city. Given that we live in Lagos, we were mildly amused at the constant reassurances we would be “safe” in the hotel and with our driver.

The next day we boarded our flight to Namibia and sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour while the airline staff quizzed a young Namibian man about his recent travels through several African nations. None of the nations were affected by EVD. Eventually the passenger was discovered to have swelling and a rash on his arms. He explained he had an allergy to iodine and had unwittingly eaten fish. This explanation wasn’t accepted and he was re-located to an empty row behind me and Jeff and made to wear a face mask. The pilot announced a passenger was being “isolated” because he had “flu virus”. No one was fooled.

Jeff and I heard the exchange between the passenger and the flight attendant so were confident he didn’t have EVD. He had no other symptoms and his red rash, which we could see, was nothing like the haemorrhages caused by the disease.  We were held on the tarmac in Namibia for 4 hours while a special infectious diseases unit was assembled.

The atmosphere on the plane where we were sitting turned hostile and one passenger was threatened with prosecution after taking photographs of the young man in “isolation”. He handled the situation with dignity and resisted frothing at the mouth and coughing on people (Jeff assured me this is what he would have done! I believe him).

The doctors arrived in full hazmat suits (I’d have been disappointed if they hadn’t) and quickly determined the young man didn’t have EVD. In fact, the only people they were excited about were me and Jeff because we’d come from Lagos. After some persuasion, they let us disembark.

Over the next 2 weeks of our holiday the situation in Lagos became alarming as more people succumbed to EVD. Jeff and I weren’t concerned about catching the disease. More worrying was the news Cameroon had closed its borders with Nigeria and suspended all flights. If we returned to Nigeria and other nations followed Cameroon’s example, we may not be able to leave Nigeria for an indeterminate period of time. We had to make a decision about whether to return and risk being stranded if things got worse.

In the end, we didn’t hesitate more than a few minutes. Nigeria is our adopted home. Jeff has work commitments and sometimes we have to accept the expatriate life isn’t without risk.

Shortly after returning to Lagos, we discovered some of the countries we visited on safari had suspended flights from Nigeria, which would’ve meant no holiday for us.

We’ve become accustomed to having our temperature tested multiple times a day, depending on where we go. Dettol wipes accompany us everywhere but we haven’t changed our lifestyle as a result of EVD.

Although it’s early days, Nigerians have proven they can work together and rise to meet a crisis. Perhaps we can feel some optimism for the future of Nigeria.

How do you feel about the success of global efforts to fight ebola virus disease?

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  1. September 14, 2014

    I do not blame the airlines that have suspended flights from Nigeria. I’m only bothered by the farcical approach to the plague by African leaders. That of course is no surprise given our penchant for idiocy. I know several state officials are going to become overnight millionaires because the fight against Ebola will like the Red Sea, certainly open up ways for them to loot the nation to the bones. i do not know where your optimism comes from for a dependable source ( UNICEF) tells me “An estimated 33 million Nigerians still practice open defecation in different parts of the country, depositing about 1.7 million tons of faeces into the environment annually”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 15, 2014

      A lot of my expat friends have left Nigeria, convinced we were going to have a full blown epidemic. I tended to agree with them and felt nervous staying here. I was going to put in more information about how difficult it would be to fight a general ebola outbreak, given the state of personal hygiene, but I try to keep blogs relatively short. Only a few people read them, anyway. I can see people using the lagoon near our apartment as a toilet every day and each afternoon a woman who works at the “bush bar” dumps a bag of rubbish in it. On the weekends, expats go jet skiing there. Someone asked me recently if I would like to go jet skiing. I declined. These are all topics for another blog, Imo!

      Liked by 1 person

      • September 15, 2014

        Tell you what, I respect your courage for staying on, but having lived here in the US for the past seven years I’d really be scared accepting the invitation to ski in the muck! Folks abuse the environment as an easy way out of the violations they daily endure from the hands of the mob that for want of a better name, pass themselves off as government.Denied even the most basic amenities like public restrooms, portable water, electricity, and motor-able roads, they answer to the call of nature wherever they can when under pressure. I do not excuse bad behavior but when a people are degraded and reduced to the level of animals they begin to act badly. How on earth can a city function without a functional refuse disposal system for all the city dwellers? I had malaria, dysentery, diarrhea, and all sorts of infections almost all the time even when I lived fairly standard life while in Nigeria. Water was polluted and food bought from the open market flies infested. Like most middle class Nigerians, I had a borehole in my compound but problem was litter, bio-waste including dead bodies buried all over the place seeped into the water table and we drank the poison all the same. Since I came over here, I have not had any of those recurrent illnesses I used to have in Nigeria. Since I survived on antibiotics back home, my body craves for them here but doctors won’t oblige!

        Liked by 1 person

      • September 15, 2014

        Ah yes! The unexplained bouts of vomiting! I am getting used to those.

        Liked by 1 person

      • September 15, 2014

        Now you have an inkling why I was so mad I made some people feel the hurt enough to come for me! The irony is that by forcing me to vote with my legs, I now live where I have an even greater reach to expose the heist, thuggery, and their black-hole accounting even more!!!!

        Like

      • September 15, 2014

        Its always good if you can sling a few grenades over your shoulder!

        Like

  2. Patricia Toovey #
    September 15, 2014

    Thanks for the update. Madonna

    Like

  3. September 15, 2014

    I was getting a few messages from people wondering how things were going.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. September 15, 2014

    I decided I’d make trenchant use of the internet to propagate my ideas, since the robbed me of my lecture theater, to join forces with other betrayed Nigerians to expose those who have abused our trust, those who see our nation as a prostrate victim to be ravished if i may borrow the words of Wole Soyinka! But instead of gore I leave behind words and polemics that sting long after I had written them. I’m so grateful to technology because since no one would publish the things we write, we can broadcast ourselves without hindrance on social media. have you not seen how .barely two weeks I wrote OUR FAMISHED ROADS and backed it up with incriminating photos, someone rush to the press to say the roads would now be fixed!!!! The crooks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. September 28, 2014

    The Minister of Health has reported that Ebola has been contained. Somehow, I find myself unable to exhale. I remain cautiously optimistic. However, the race from a poor start has ended with a strong finish. As you said, “Nigerians have proven they can work together and rise to meet a crisis. Perhaps we can feel some optimism for the future of Nigeria.”

    As per the global efforts, the media reports show that the world has taken more serious interest, more pledges and financial and other contributions. Better late than never. Agencies like Doctors without Borders and Samaritan Purse are to be commended as are those indigenous medical and other personnel on the front lines in West Africa.

    Oh, the ‘poor’ Namibian young man, I felt his humiliation. And someone had the nerve to take photos? Oh well, nothing like a photo to spice your tweet 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 28, 2014

      I agree we remain at risk while the epidemic rages in our neighboring countries. The world response has been poor and I hope these new efforts make a difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. October 30, 2014

    wow! really worried about Ebola over in UK and been submitting a lot of aid money. If only some other western countries would stop sitting back and help! Hope youre ok x x x

    Like

    • November 4, 2014

      Nigeria has been Ebola free for a while now and they had protocols in place to deal with it, so nothing to be concerned about here. Yes, the rest of the world does need to do more- my country in particular.

      Liked by 1 person

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