It seems that when combating the deadly Ebola virus the world can now look to Nigeria for solutions. On Monday, the government of Nigeria announced that the country has stopped the outbreak of the Ebola virus that is spreading throughout West Africa. The World Health Organization has called Nigeria’s achievement a “spectacular success story.”
World Health Organization, WHO, official, Rui Gama Vaz, stated during a press conference in the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria, “It shows that Ebola can be contained, but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.” The announcement was met with applause by those assembled at the news conference and celebration was noted by many throughout the country.
The virus came to Nigeria when Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, collapsed at the Lagos International Airport in July of this year. Because there was no protocol in place for Ebola, Sawyer’s illness caught the airport and the government flat-footed. It became an international incident between Nigeria and Liberia, as the Liberian government demanded the release of their diplomat. In addition Sawyer, who died from the virus, was called combative by many health care workers and had to be restrained, infecting several people in the process. During his hospitalization, Sawyer ripped out his IV tube and infected a nurse who was treating him. The nurse later died of Ebola. As soon as it was determined that Sawyer was in fact infected with Ebola, government officials went into action, the state governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola, interrupted his pilgrimage to Mecca to attend to the crisis.
Nigeria used their existing surveillance system for polio to start tracing and isolating individuals who came in contact with Sawyer. WHO director Margaret Chan stated, “If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this … any country in the world experiencing an important case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases.”
The Nigerian government was able to distance itself from the political issue and concentrate on the public health issue, unlike what is happening in the United States currently. This past weekend President Barack Obama announced that he was appointing White House official Ron Klain as the country’s “Ebola czar.” However, Klain has no experience in health care or public health policy.