Via the blog Nigeria Health Watch, an April 8 post: Rumors of Ebola in Nigeria: the blind leading the blind? Click through for the full report and many links. Excerpt:
The Nigerian Punch is one of the newspapers covering the current Ebola outbreak. In an article from the 26 March, the Punch informed us about the Federal Government’s announcement to take “proactive measures to ensure that the outbreak of Ebola disease in neighbouring (sic) West African country, Guinea, does not come to Nigeria”.
Not only was this not followed up by concrete plans (all the article mentioned are planned discussions about the situation and a vague reference to the monitoring of travellers from the affected area), it also ignored the fact that there are at least four countries between Nigeria and Guinea. Somebody who does not know this might have gotten scared by the proclaimed proximity of the disease. Panic might have been the consequence, especially since on the previous, an alleged case of Ebola was reported in Abuja Leadership.
Certainly the general vagueness and lack of information in the news did not do much to put anybody at ease. As for the alleged Nigerian Ebola case, the background of the deceased was given (a young and bright medical student) but no detail on how she had been diagnosed with Ebola.
In reaction to this alleged Nigerian Ebola case, the Minister of of State for Health “inform[ed] the general public that laboratory investigation has revealed that it is not Ebola but Dengue hemorrhagic fever”.
Moreover, he explained some similarities of Dengue with Malaria, including that both diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes. This was broadcasted by Channels TV and now can be found on youtube.
In a related article by Channels TV, the Minister is quoted as having said “most Nigerians mistake Dengue fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes in urban and semi urban areas, for Ebola disease”. The way Channels TV rephrased the minister’s words may give the unintended impression that Ebola is transmitted by mosquitoes!
The information on Ebola that we are getting from the official side is also very scarce. For instance, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control does not even have a website, while website of the Ministry of Health has just a single page on the current outbreak of Ebola. It states that there has not been a case of Ebola in Nigeria and then continues for a long while discussing the ways of transmission for Dengue fever and how Dengue fever differs from Malaria and Ebola.
Only in the last two paragraphs does the focus return to Ebola. There the ministry advises that Nigerians “should report any illnesses with the above stated symptoms to the nearest health facility”. However, all the “above symptoms” refer to Dengue fever and Malaria. So the ministry’s website does not help us in any way to identify potential cases of Ebola in Nigeria.
Perhaps the most shocking response came from the Ministry of Information after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on 2 April. The Minister of Information said “the Ministry has taken every precaution, including getting the vaccines and medicines in case there was any incident in Nigeria”. There is no vaccine for Ebola. However, if the Ministry of Information should have found one recently, they should let us know. Such a breakthrough would certainly deserve the Nobel Prize of Medicine!
Thankfully, in another pronouncement on Monday April 4, the Minister of Health has tried to make amends by announcing that there is indeed no vaccine for Ebola, and goes on to authoritatively state, as reported by Channels that "Ebola will not enter Nigeria"!).