Remembering Adadevoh and the Ebola victory
ONE year after Nigeria overcame the Ebola scourge, a virus which claimed eight lives while 11 infected persons survived, the nation must remember it still owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, the lead physician and endocrinologist in Lagos who correctly diagnosed the virus and, with her bravery as well as selflessness, saved the country a more tragic experience. She in fact saved Nigeria with her own life.
An important tribute the country can pay to Adadevoh especially is to guard against a fresh outbreak of the disease as any other like it. Such vigilance has become imperative in the light of the fact that a year after Nigeria was declared free of the virus, the government and the citizens seem to have forgotten the vital lessons learnt during the outbreak.
In fact there is an urgent need now to remember those lessons as Ebola has not been completely wiped out from the world. Just this month, the country was jolted by a report of an alleged outbreak of Ebola in Calabar, Cross River State when a student died at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital. While the death was later declared as far from being Ebola-related, there are resurgent cases of Ebola in different parts of the world such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom.
In fact, there has been new evidence that has changed the clinical and epidemiological understanding of the disease in terms of response to Ebola in pregnancy, and the risk of relapse by survivors carrying the virus in their semen and virginal secretions.
Aside from the efforts of Adadevoh and her colleagues, the country and the citizens must do remember that victory was recorded over Ebola because of the swiftness of the government in responding to the crisis. Now is the best time for the government to strengthen its response mechanism in the face of health emergencies. During the Ebola crisis, the victims were taken to the National Centre for Disease Control in Lagos at a time it was apparently neglected and ill-equipped to serve its purpose. Thus there is the need now for the government to improve the centre and prepare it for a possible future outbreak of infectious diseases. If the Federal Government which owns the centre cannot effectively renovate the place, it should concede it to the Lagos State government which currently claims it cannot do anything about the centre because of encumbrances placed by the federal structure of government in the country. The government should even consider building a better centre after renovating the existing one, adequately fund it and encourage robust research. Nigeria must be in the league of other nations of the world that are committed to serious research into Ebola and other deadly diseases with a view to finding solutions to them.
On account of the lack of preparedness of the nation for an outbreak of diseases like Ebola, the nation’s airport through which Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian arrived in Nigeria could not raise the alarm about his precarious health condition. And even if the country increases surveillance at its airports, the porous nature of the country’s borders could still be an avenue for victims to come to Nigeria and spread diseases. However, it is not only the government that must be vigilant. Surveillance was demonstrated at individual levels through maintaining a high level of hygiene during the Ebola outbreak. The citizens must go back to these values.
And while the lady who prevented Ebola is no more, her exemplary patriotism deserves to be honoured. One major way of doing this is to name a monument after her. For Adadevoh, the government should think of naming a medical institution after her, perhaps the disease control centre. In the immediate, the government, institutions and even individual Nigerians should demonstrate commitment to medical research into diseases such as Ebola by contributing to the Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh Health Trust (DRASA) which was launched in Lagos the other day with the aim of preventing another infectious disease outbreak and generally improving the nation’s health care.
The euphoria on the victory over Ebola is worth it because it has been a victory earned. But the country must reflect on how it overcame the virus and honour the heroine, Adadevoh, and others. Of course, it is only through constant surveillance and such patriotism as displayed a year ago can Nigeria avoid being a vulnerable country to infections.