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Nigeria Stops Ebola

Nigeria Stops Ebola

Last week, as one patient in Texas was diagnosed with Ebola and another patient in D.C. appears to be displaying potential Ebola symptoms, Americans are on high alertabout the potential spread of the deadly virus. Republican lawmakers are already accusing President Obama of not doing enough to counteract a future outbreak on American soil.
But, amid the ominous headlines about Ebola, there’s one piece of good news about the virus that’s gone largely overlooked: This week, health officials announced that Nigeria appears to have contained the virus within its borders.

“For those who say it’s hopeless, this is an antidote — you can control Ebola,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters this week.

In the middle of July, a sick traveler from Liberia — the heart of the current Ebola outbreak — arrived in Lagos, which is the most populous city in Nigeria and home to an international airport. He exposed more than 70 people at the airport before officials realized he had Ebola. Then, he died. The government quickly went on high alert. Considering the fact that Lagos is such a transportation hub, the threat was significant.

There hasn’t been a new Ebola case since the end of August, which, according to the CDC, suggests “the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria might be contained.”

There hasn’t been a new Ebola case since the end of August, which, according to the CDC, suggests “the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria might be contained.”

But Nigeria’s existing infrastructure allowed the country to take action relatively quickly. The national public health response was coordinated by a central emergency operations center, a new medical building that was financed partly by Bill and Melinda Gates to help fight polio. Officials identified nearly 900 people who may have come into contact with the man who died from Ebola; then, a team of epidemiologists closely tracked those individuals and confirmed 19 cases of the virus among other Nigerians. Another team went door-to-door within a certain radius of the homes of the people infected with Ebola to check up on residents. An effective messaging campaign helped dispel myths about the virus.

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Those rapid response efforts helped Nigerian officials successfully halt the spread of the disease, which has been killing about 70 percent of the Western African residents who become infected. There hasn’t been a new Ebola case since the end of August, which, according to the CDC, suggests “the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria might be contained.”

The experts working on the ground in Nigeria explain that the country has several advantages over the other Western African nations that have been plagued by the epidemic. Compared to Liberia or Sierra Leone, it’s more politically and economically stable. Thanks to a national initiative to address polio implemented in 2012, Nigeria already has a health care infrastructure in place; there are trained doctors, sophisticated hospitals, and enough resources like masks and rubber gloves.

Those are all of the same advantages available to people living here in the United States. American patients can be treated in immaculate isolation units, rather thandying on the floor in dirty hospitals where staff is overworked and unequipped to respond to the crisis.

Experts have long been saying that Ebola doesn’t have much of a chance of spreading far in a developed nation like the U.S., where people have access to running water, sanitation systems, and trained doctors. But Americans don’t have to take their word for it — they can simply look to Nigeria as a case study.

tara-culp-ressler

Tara Culp-Ressler
Think Progress