Lessons from the Ebola outbreak

Ebola has continued to creep across the African continent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the latest victims being reported in neighbours DR Congo. The epidemic has worryingly made its way across the sub region and the threat only gets closer and very real.

Ebola has continued to creep across the African continent, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the latest victims being reported in neighbours DR Congo.

The epidemic has worryingly made its way across the sub region and the threat only gets closer and very real.   

This is not the first time that this virus has journeyed into our region.

The most recent outbreak originated from a two-year old boy in a village in southern Guinea, who later infected his three year old sister, a nurse and his grandmother, earlier this year.

It is extremely scary and puzzling that this two year old infant would then be identified as some sort of ‘patient zero’ and lead to approximately 1400 deaths throughout the continent, according to WHO statistics.  

This is the largest outbreak of the virus in its history of close to 30 years.  The terrifying fact about this epidemic is that it has a high mortality rate and once it has passed its incubation state of 21 days, death is soon to follow.

This virus has returned with a serious vengeance, so much so that untested drugs are being used to treat the ill.

As the virus is dealt with by authorities, we should not miss this opportunity to learn something and to approach public health matters from a different perspective.

This disease can be classified as one that attacks the lower socio-economic class.

Public health deals with health issues on a large scale and this can be misleading, causing the ‘1 per cent’ at the top of the economic pyramid to believe they are immortal to such diseases.  

Public health should be top of mind for every member of society since the six degrees of separation we are used to are reducing daily with increased travel.  

This is how the disease has managed to cross numerous borders rapidly.  The last outbreak was in 2012, with under 100 cases reported in Uganda and the DR Congo.  This was a mere two years ago and now the disease has travelled faster and more developed.   

This teaches us that public health matters are actually in the hands of the individual more than ever, and not just in the context of Ebola.  

As a society, we shouldn’t wait for a tragedy in order to begin taking precautions. In my line of work, I deal with Malaria control.  

Malaria is completely different from Ebola, from the transmission, to the signs and symptoms and all the way down to the mortality rate.  However, just like Ebola, it’s a disease that has had a crippling effect on our continent.

Ebola comes and goes (well, so we believe) but Malaria is very prevalent in Africa, which is the ‘home’ to the female anopheles mosquito (vector).  Malaria is not contiguous, which can often cause people to not take the necessary precautions, but until we have a vaccine we need to protect our younger generations.  

In an ideal world, everyone would be able to sleep under a mosquito net. My greatest issue with mosquitoes are the buzzing in the middle of night more than anything, very seldom do I think about the fact that I could be hospitalised by a slight prick.  

This also poses an issue regarding the advocacy efforts directed at Malaria prevention, are we doing enough or do we need more of a reminder on the effects of Malaria?  

Many people survive thanks to the consistent improvements in medication and various preventative devices, but we are so quick to forget those who die. Unlike Ebola, we are more in control of our fate when it comes to Malaria.

The writer is a Communications and Business Development Manager, Balton Rwanda Ltd

 

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