By Rae Avery
In what may be the first good news in weeks regarding the tragic series of Ebola outbreaks world-wide, the quick thinking and emergency-preparedness of Nigerian clinics have effectively stopped the virus from spreading in that country. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation expanded medical staff and initiated solid training, in addition to giving much-needed technical support. They also gave huge financial donations to retrofit polio clinics in the country, which were equipped and ready when the Ebola outbreak hit, and whose decisive doctors and quick actions have now eradicated the deadly virus in Nigeria.
“Children are going back to school in Nigeria,” reported Ameen Awalii, for USA Today, “and there’s a sense of cautious optimism, as Africa’s most populous country is declared Ebola free.”
With some countries teetering on the edge of panic, and some in actual crisis regarding the emerging Ebola outbreak, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sees Nigeria’s success as a ray of hope. “For those who say it’s hopeless, this is an antidote – you can control Ebola.” Indeed, risk of the virus has decreased in Nigeria so much that as of October 7th, the CDC has officially downgraded Nigeria’s risk level from Level 2, Alert to Level 1, Watch.
No new cases of Ebola have been reported in Nigeria since August 31st. Currently, all Ebola patients are either deceased or fully recovered, with an astonishing 60% recovery rate and equally surprising, only eight deaths reported.
Health officials in Nigeria took specific measures very early in the outbreak to safeguard its citizens, and stem potential risk. These included government-funded educational materials for the public regarding Ebola and hygiene, in which they learned to wash their hands with ashes if one does not own soap, in a country where many cannot afford it. Nigerian hospitals also improved quarantined isolation wards, having just undergone renovation. Also, health officials were posted on standby at every port, outfitted with thermometers to check travelers’ temperatures for risk of the virus.
Dr. Faisal Shuaib, overseer of Nigeria’s emergency operations center, remarked in a recent CNN interview, “Mobilizing swiftly, human, material, and financial resources were required to contain the outbreak.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation gave large financial donations to Nigeria to benefit and retrofit their healthcare systems in July and August, and after the sudden Ebola outbreak in September, pledged to give an additional $50 million. This preparedness was essential to stopping the spread of the illness. Nigeria’s “extensive response to a single case of Ebola shows that control is possible with rapid focused interventions,” Dr. Frieden said in an interview.
With the United States and Spain now each dealing with the Ebola crisis, the CDC is sending medical researchers to Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, to learn more about how we might use their specific techniques to aid in the eradication of this illness.
While some countries have failed entirely to provide adequate response to the disease, and others merely hope to avoid an incident, the lessons from this success story are clear: the only way to beat Ebola is with a direct, head-on approach. Nigeria was lucky to have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in their corner. The rest of the world would be wise to learn from their success.