The Ebola virus disease hit West African countries Aug/Sept 2014 ravaging the health infrastructure of many nations in this sub-region, causing scare, death, pain, and anguish for citizens. The early symptoms are: fever, muscle pains, and cramps. The secondary are; vomiting, frequent stooling, and diarrhoea, bleeding from multiple parts of the body. It is highly contagious and kills within three weeks of infection. There is no known cure. Victims are quickly quarantined to check the spread.
The fever has come and probably gone in Nigeria, but the fear of the virus it still visible among 170 million citizens of the largest African economy. It has sharply increased the awareness of diseases among the people, personal hygiene, changed the way the people live and work, and kept everyone on alert for infectious diseases. It even forced government to extend the re-opening of schools for the 2014/2015 academic session.
Ebola was imported into Nigeria by a Liberian national and quickly claimed his life on arrival and the life of the medical consultant who treated him. It jolted government and the people into alertness to fight the disease and save lives. The monster reared its ugly head of death first-time in the 80’s, near a river named Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo and went underground, only to rise again in 2014 to wreck havoc among hapless Africans ravaged by poverty and corruption. The virus carriers are bats, monkeys, guerrillas, apes and other primates.
How did the Ebola quake affect the lifestyle of Nigerians?
Info-management…Government health machinery swung into action with robust information and communication and management of the disease. The Health Ministry gave daily briefings about the quarantine of the Liberian national, symptoms of the disease, how to avoid being infected, and how and where to report cases.
Personal Hygiene…This came to the front burner among the people. Ebola made Nigerians to step up their personal hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with water…Clean-up your environment…avoid vector animals…watch what you eat…use hand sanitizers…avoid carcasses of animals… .avoid bush meat… It’s in your hands messages saturated the media.
Sanitizer-nomics…Many never heard of sanitizers before, not to talk of using it. Sale of hand sanitizers soared. Shops quickly ran out of stock. Very quickly, fake brands flooded the markets as citizens rushed for the product to stay alive and well.
Media Blitz… It was intense. Daily briefings by government officials, medical consultants and health officials on prevention and care of infected persons was robust, sometimes using celebrities, musicians, actors and actresses, just to get the attention of the people. Message was clear…know the symptoms of Ebola, how to avoid infection…know what to do about suspected cases and how to care for victims.
No handshakes… To avoid infection, stop handshakes. It spread like wildfire. Nobody knows the source of this message. People greeted other without shaking hands. Many parishes of the Catholic Church stopped the peace greetings of shaking hands and hugging during masses.
Drink salt water…Anti-Ebola therapies rent the air…drink salt in warm water…eat bitter kola. No way, it is not authoritative…salt water does not cure Ebola, said government. Don’t endanger your health.
Temperature check…Immigration and airport officials began to screen the temperature of passengers. Banks did same for customers. Most public and private institutions set up temperature measurement gates to spot high temperature or fever of customers.
Schools… Public and private schools began to stock up hand sanitizers and personal hygiene products in preparation for resumption. Government extended resumption dates for schools and brought it back… teachers protested and went on strike. Their prayer…schools should not re-open until the disease is fully checked and schools fully fitted with anti-Ebola gadgets. Governments organized anti Ebola training for teachers.
Quarantine…Many state governments set up quarantine places for any possible victims of Ebola. Some communities did not welcome the locations of such facility in their domains. They protested.
Restaurants…Don’t eat bush meat message circulated widely. It was bad business for restaurants and pepper-soup joints, as eateries that sell bush-meat are known in Nigeria. They cried out…who cares. So were commercial sex workers. Everybody played safe.
Such was the impact of the Ebola scourge in Nigeria within two months. Government says it has been checked, no more cases, but up to 5 people died. Some miraculously survived despite the absence of vaccines for cure. Schools reopen this week in Nigeria (some did 2 weeks ago) but everybody is still cautious. Some parents say they will keep their children at home for sometime and study the situation.
The fear of Ebola is now the beginning of wisdom in Nigeria.
(8 October 2014)
Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.
Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.