Epidemics And The Calumny Of Fear
The various tiers of the Nigerian government through its Ministry of Health, as well as health and media practitioners have all taken steps to address the outbreak of Lassa fever and more recently Avian (bird) flu in the country and halt their spread. The public, and of particular mention, poultry farm owners are being educated on symptoms to watch out for, and the necessary and responsible steps to take in the event that there is a suspected case of either. This has to be a collaborative effort that includes every one.
Nigeria was able to very quickly curtail the spread of the Ebola virus in 2014, a fact that attracted global respect. This is incontrovertible proof that the country has the wherewithal – the collective will – to defeat the spread of an epidemic, be it Lassa fever or Avian flu, before it becomes a pandemic. More recently, the government issued a travel advisory to Nigerians, especially pregnant women, regarding the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which was identified in South America and is spreading across the United States of America.
Apart from heeding Government and health warnings, reporting suspected cases to the appropriate Health authorities and maintaining high levels of personal hygiene and cleanliness in the surroundings, is there more that can be done to prevent or to stop the spread of an epidemic dead in its tracks?
A January 27, 2016 editorial in the Christian Science Monitor titled ‘A calm lesson for the Zika scare from the Ebola crisis’ has some very useful points. It states that Health workers are learning that the ‘Fear of an epidemic should not be allowed to create an epidemic of fear’, because a major report from nineteen experts convened by Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine indicates that ‘during the Ebola crisis, health workers complained that fear was their worst enemy in delivering care’.
As each citizen responds responsibly to halt the spread of Lassa fever and Avian flu, it is imperative not to be held hostage by fear, which only paralyses clarity of thought. Founder of the Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy [1821 – 1910] recommends a calm state of mind, in addition to submitting to the processes outlined by government, strictly obeying the rules put in place by those responsible for law-making and promptly reporting cases of infectious and contagious diseases to the appropriate authority.
As measures are taken to halt the spread of Lassa fever and Avian flu, it is high time Nigerians took the responsibility upon themselves for maintaining clean environments that discourage rodent infestation; for poultry farmers to adhere to bio-security rules laid down, for government to ensure that adequate policies and facilities are in place to safeguard the health of all its citizens; and above all, that the nation not succumb to a calumny of fear, but calmly take a stand for good health.