Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) previously called Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever is a highly infectious viral disease which is fatal in about 5 of every 10 cases. Ebola was first discovered in 1976 in parts of tropical Africa and Central Africa, but was successfully contained.
Since March 2014, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has claimed more lives than all the other outbreaks combined, and has spread to more countries than previously seen. Recent statistics showed that Nigeria had 20 cases of Ebola, with 8 deaths. It is believed that EVD first arrived in Lagos, Nigeria through a ‘Mr Sawyer’, a Liberian traveller who was infected with the virus.
Ebola can be contracted through direct contact with diseased animals or humans carrying the virus but only when the human has started to show symptoms. The transmission is majorly through bodily fluids (blood, mucous, breast milk, semen, etc), secretions organs or even infected clothing or bedding. It has been seen that men who recover from the virus can still transmit EVD for up to 7 weeks.
The incubation period for EVD is 2-21 days in which tests such as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), antigen-capture, and serum neutralization can come up negative. The first symptoms of EVD include sudden tiredness akin to fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and streps. This is then followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes, symptoms of kidney and liver failure, and in some cases internal and external bleeding and then death.
The Nigerian Government in September ordered all (secondary and primary) schools to be closed until October 13, which was extended several times before then. This decision which was timely has been argued to be counter-productive by some and other saw it as the best thing since the announcement of new polymer notes.
- Ebola is highly infectious and in scenarios of secondary and primary schools were pupils and students play together and often share food items, EVD would be very easy to transmit. Also, teachers of Kindergarten and similar classes would be very susceptible to contract the disease from an infected child as they are tasked not only with teaching, but sometimes cleaning and feeding the child.
- Primary school and secondary school students are not old enough or health-conscious enough to adopt adequate precautionary measures and are hence highly susceptible to the Ebola Virus.
- There is no vaccine or cure for EVD (yet) and knowing this and that there is nothing more precious than the youths of any nation and the Nigerian Government had that well in mind when they shut down the schools.
- It is both counter-productive and downright dumb to close only primary and secondary schools when places of social interaction still exist for said pupils and students. This could be at religious gatherings, playgrounds or even ‘lessons’. After spending more than a month delaying, it has cost the students at least 6 weeks off their academic year, and gearing towards 2015, it does not seem likely to return.
- It was seen that about 70% of Ebola cases occurred in people between the ages of 18 and 35. With this in mind, is it wise that Primary and Secondary schools were closed for several weeks but Colleges of Education, Polytechnics, and Universities remained open all through the saga, when the age range for such institutions coincides with the susceptible age range for EVD?
- An Ebola training, prevention and handling course for teachers, which is what the Federal Government had in mind when it shut down schools, would ideally take around 3 weeks for implementation. Schools were shut down for at least 6 weeks and as much as 10 weeks in some and currently, a good number of schools are still shut down. Not only does this cause a huge problem for educators, it causes one or students and pupils who after the third term break are eager for school but have been given an extra break which would sap out their enthusiasm and probably cause disinterest for the rest of the term as teachers struggle to cover the schemes of work.
Personally, I am pro-life and hence go with the Nigerian Government’s decision to close down the schools, although I do agree it was too long. It was unwise in my opinion, to only close down primary schools and secondary schools while universities were still open, but, the decision paid off as there have been few or no cases of children being infected with EVD anywhere in Nigeria.
For patients with EVD, rehydration and fluid based diets have aided therapy. Also, to prevent Ebola, human-wildlife interaction should be very closely monitored. The meat of susceptible hosts such as apes and bats should be thoroughly cooked before consumption. Gloves and protective clothing should be worn at all times when handling sick patients and hands should be washed often or sanitizing gel/fluids should be used to disinfect hands after using public restrooms or after contact with unclean surfaces or other susceptible humans.
Save a life today as we join the fight against Ebola.
16. Nov. 2014