It started out like the end of the world.
Naked fear was all over the land. People avoided handshakes with artful dodging. One lover-boy actually aimed to plant a kiss on his sweetheart and got a hot slap in reply!
You can quote me on that. Trust me even if I’m selling fake news!
The dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was bad, mean!
Call it just Ebola, for short. Ebola held the world in thrall when it struck.
I can’t forget in a hurry the evil day of Ebola, when on July 20, 2014, the fatally ill Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, flew aboard an ASKY Air Flight into Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos – armed with the disease.
The man died barely five days later.
The tumultuous arrival of Patrick Sawyer, whom then President Goodluck Jonathan described as “a madman”, set off a chain of transmissions.
The first case of a Nigerian suffering from Ebola manifested on August 6, 2014.
In no time at all, eight persons had perished just like that.
The confirmed cases of 20 sufferers of Ebola raised the pulse of the country to an alarming fever pitch.
Alarmed Nigerian health officials immediately re-purposed technologies and infrastructure from WHO and other partners to help find cases and track potential chains of transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Diverse bodies such as the WHO, the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and other partners supported the Nigerian government with expertise for outbreak investigation, risk assessment, contact tracing and clinical care.
The strong public awareness campaigns, together with the early engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders played crucial roles in the successful containment of the Ebola outbreak.
The then Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, showed great empathy to the survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease, notably: Dr. Adaora Igonoh, Dennis Akagha, Dr. Ibeawuchi Morris, Dr. Fadipe Akinniyi and Dr. Enemuo Kelechi.
He also presented N50 million to First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende, where the index case, Patrick Sawyer, died.
Fashola’s noble endearment saved the hospital from pariah status and sure demise.
Nigeria contributed only 0.22 per cent and 0.18 per cent to the global burden of suspected, probable, and confirmed cases and deaths, respectively.
About 891 cumulative contacts were recorded nationally: 365 in Lagos and 526 in Rivers, while contacts that completed 21 days follow-up nationally was 890, with Lagos accounting for 365, and Rivers 525.
Ebola changed Nigerian lives deeply.
The Catholic Church, for instance, stopped the shaking of hands during Mass.
Bushmeat joints became abandoned.
On my home front, when I bought Suya for the family, my wife and children started screaming: “Ebola! Ebola! Ebola!”
I thought they would leave the entire Suya for me to eat, but before I could get down from upstairs they had eaten up the entire Ebola, sorry, Suya!
That’s when I knew that the Ebola matter would not last long in Nigeria.
Yes, Nigeria defeated Ebola.
Even the Americans had to look at Nigeria with star-spangled envy when for once our country lived up to the sobriquet: Giant of Africa.
No less a body than the World Health Organisation (WHO) stepped forward pronto to confirm that Nigeria was an Ebola-free nation.
Here are the timeless words from the horse’s mouth of the WHO: “Today, October 20, Nigeria reached that 42-day mark and is now considered free of Ebola transmission. I will like to take this opportunity on behalf of the WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, to congratulate the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through President Goodluck Jonathan. Many wealthy countries, with outstanding health systems, may have something to learn as well. While the outbreak now is officially over, Nigeria’s geographic positions and extensive borders make the country vulnerable to additional imported cases of the Ebola Virus Disease. It is, therefore, necessary to continue vigilance for any suspected cases by strict compliance with the WHO EVD preparedness guidelines. Therefore, there is need to continue to work together with all states to ensure adequate preparedness and rapid response in case of any potential re-importation. It must be clear that the war has not ended, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”
In the Ebola matter, Nigeria showed strong leadership and effective coordination of the response that included the rapid establishment of Emergency Operations Centres.
The late Dr Stella Adadevoh is the eternal martyr of the Ebola cause.
She stopped the scourge with her very life.