No one knows for sure just how many people Patrick Sawyer came into contact with the day he boarded a flight in Liberia, had a stopover in Ghana, changed planes in Togo, and then arrived in Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later from Ebola, one of the deadliest diseases known to man.
Now health workers are scrambling to trace those who may have been exposed to Sawyer across West Africa, including flight attendants and fellow passengers.
Health experts say it is unlikely he could have infected others with the virus that can cause victims to bleed from the eyes, mouth and ears. Still, unsettling questions remain: How could a man whose sister recently died from Ebola manage to board a plane leaving the country? And worse: Could Ebola become the latest disease to be spread by international air travel?
The risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, semen, sweat or saliva, experts say. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
And patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the WHO. And the most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.
But the mere prospect of Ebola in Africa’s most populous nation has Nigerians on edge. It has me on edge, hence the reason for this post. There are a lot of things I am unsure of, especially about the information being spread about preventive measures against Ebola. But a few of them which make sense as prevention are listed below:
Do not buy and eat any fruit directly without washing it first very well.
Try and avoid unnecessary hand shaking; in Nigeria, we shake hands for the entire Europe and Africa put together. If you must shake hands, keep your hands away from your mouth and either use a hand sanitizer or wash with soap and water afterwards. Unlike HIV, Ebola can be spread through contact with body sweat or saliva, so be careful.
Avoid eating any meat from apes e.g. monkeys and its families. For now, you might want to stay away from eating any meat that you do not know it’s source, most especially beloved ‘suya’ and ‘kilishi’ – they were never healthy anyways. If you must eat meat, buy and cook it yourself with sufficient salt, water and whatever else is used to boil meat. Stay away from bats and bat meat as well.
In case you still need to be told, bathe as often as you can. With soap.
Alert the authorities to anything suspicious; the numbers to call are – 08023169485, 08033086660, 08033065303, 08055281442, and 08055329229. And stay informed. Watch, read and listen to the news daily; thirty minutes away from Telemundo or your ‘50 Shades of Grey’ will not kill you, but Ebola could.