I recently came down with something. It started off as extreme fatigue, then a constant headache. By Day Two the feverishness, nausea and body aches had kicked in. And all these symptoms worsened throughout the night until I eventually decided to take myself to the hospital on Day Three. I presented myself to a lovely General Practitioner in a private hospital in Lekki Phase One, Lagos who took note of all my symptoms and told me she would be testing me for malaria and typhoid fever. I questioned. “Why not Ebola?” which was met with a chuckle and a dismissive wave as the doctor replied “We no longer have Ebola in Nigeria”. I insisted I’d still like to be tested and told the doctor I had been traveling a lot recently. The doctor proceeded to inform me that the hospital had run out of Ebola testing kits, and that was that.
It turns out I tested positive for malaria but I couldn’t shake off her dismissiveness. No enquiries were asked about my recent travels for all she knew I could’ve just returned from a six month tour in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But Nigeria is Ebola-free so who cares right? Please don’t get me wrong, no one (and certainly not me) is praying for Ebola but this attitude is precisely the sort of thing that could (God forbid) allow the disease to re-emerge within our borders. I wondered what said doctor’s attitude would have been if I had presented myself with these exact symptoms four months ago?
I’m not just blaming that particular doctor or hospital. I have noticed a general decline in vigilance and caution. Certain venues that once would check the temperature of all passengers in a car before allowing admittance, no longer bother. The bathrooms in my office, once cleaned every hour on the hour are now returning to their original filthy state. There’s a general lackadaisical attitude that is truly unfortunate. As long as the Ebola virus exists (which it still does) and travel to high-risk countries is not restricted (which it still is not) then there’s still a risk to everyone. Currently no readily-available cure for Ebola exists so really, let’s not fool ourselves into a state of vulnerability. Yes we did an incredible job getting rid of Ebola in Nigeria but this doesn’t mean there cannot be a recurrence. As far as no cure exists I hope establishments continue to screen admittance, individuals maintain the stringent hygiene practices they adopted during the peak of the disease and most importantly, all travelers be diligent in reporting any symptoms immediately. Hopefully they’d up being treated more seriously than I was.
Written by Ifeyinwa Ojekwe