Two Tales of Ebola: Nigeria vs USA


ebola1-160x100TWO men are reportedly responsible for transporting Ebola to Nigeria and the US. Both men are of Liberian origin. That is where the similarities in the tale end. With its underdeveloped healthcare facilities, Nigeria robustly tackled the problem and now appears to have the situation under manageable control. Unlike Nigeria, the US with its sophisticated medical facilities and high level of preparedness to tackle any health epidemic, approached the issue with underserved levity.

Below are excerpts of two newspaper articles on this issue. First, Elahe Izadi of the elite Washington Post writes:

While the Ebola epidemic continues to ravage Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, its spread into Nigeria may now be contained, health officials said Tuesday.

The country has had no new cases of the deadly virus since Aug. 31, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said suggests that the outbreak could be coming to an end in Africa’s most populous country.

Populous country

Nigeria’s first known case of Ebola was traced to Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian American who traveled from Ebola-ravaged Liberia and arrived in the Nigerian capital of Lagos on July 20. He died five days later.

Sawyer had been admitted to a private hospital in Nigeria, and although he wasn’t immediately quarantined, the country aggressively responded to contain the virus. Nigerian officials quickly declared an Ebola emergency; since then, health workers have conducted 18,500 face-to-face visits and identified 894 people who have had contact with someone who may have had Ebola, according to the CDC

More than 400 people were under surveillance in the oil city of Port Harcourt. Now, nearly all of the 894 Ebola “contacts” have exited the monitoring phase.

“Although Nigeria isn’t completely out of the woods, their extensive response to a single case of Ebola shows that control is possible with rapid, focused interventions,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Countries throughout the region as well as Nigeria need to take rapid steps to prepare for possible cases of Ebola in order to prevent outbreaks in their country.”

Nigeria has had eight Ebola deaths and 20 confirmed or probable cases. The majority of Ebola patients in Nigeria contracted the virus in one of two health facilities in Lagos, and 11 Ebola patients have recovered.

Tuesday’s CDC statement pointed out that Nigeria benefited in part from its past experiences in responding to public health crises, such as lead poisoning in 2010 and polio in 2012.


Last Thursday (October 2nd) Rachel Maddow of the MSNBC cable television dissected the handling of the first diagnosed Ebola case in the US and gave the authorities an F grade in the way they handled the case. She was full of praise for Nigeria in the way the country dealt with its first known case of Ebola and wondered why Texas Governor Rick Perry chose to attend to an out-of-state political fund-raising activity while medical authorities in a hospital in his state and city officials bungled the Ebola case.

Below is how another newspaper report summarized Maddow’s characterization of the handling of the Ebola case:

Here’s Rachel Maddow talking sense on the Ebola virus.  In her Thursday show, she looked at how authorities in Texas have responded to the first diagnosed case of the disease in the U.S. As it turns out, we’ve got a good model for how to deal effectively with Ebola: Nigeria actually kept the disease from breaking out into a pandemic when it discovered an infected patient had flown into the country, and while it took a massive effort, it worked. And so, all Texas needs to do to prevent a public health emergency is to be at least as effective as Nigeria. 


Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient in the US is said to have arrived in the U.S. partly to marry his girlfriend and visit his son by the same lady. Upon arrival in the U.S. he felt unwell and went to a Dallas hospital for treatment. Reports say that he gave the nurses on duty the information that he had arrived from Liberia, but he was given some antibiotics medicine and sent home. He was to return later with the confirmation of suffering from Ebola.

It has since emerged that the nurses “miscommunicated” the information provided by Duncan, hence the decision by the hospital officials to send him home. The irony now is that the blame game is on, with the allegation that Thomas knowingly reported that he had not come in contact with any Ebola patient prior to departing from Liberia, when it is now known that he helped take a pregnant woman with Ebola to hospital in his native country. But, this is beside the real issue which is that of negligence on the part of the hospital nurses that attended to him. He was honest about feeling sick and that he had arrived from Liberia, the epic-center of the Ebola crisis, yet he was treated quite casually and let go.

The news that the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) wishes to learn a thing or two about Ebola control from Nigeria is indeed welcome. It shows that developing nations have something to offer the rich, more sophisticated nations and indeed the entire world.  More fundamentally, it is a demonstration that when such nations  wish to rise to the occasion and confront an issue of national emergency, they can actually do so and succeed. The problem is that oftentimes, leaders in such nations just sit back and watch their country degenerate into chaos and mismanagement, for that is the preferred habitat in which such leaders survive.



Categories: HEALTH, NEWS, Uncategorized

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