Walter Wilson Nana
The Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases in the University of Buea, UB, may not have the huge financial resources to engage in the herculean task of getting a vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that has gone viral in some West and Central African countries, but they have an outreach strategy for sensitisation.
Though no cases of the Ebola virus has been detected in Cameroon, the management of UB led by the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Nalova Lyonga, think that sensitising the community on the
prevention of the Ebola virus is critical. This is the motive of a sensitisation tour UB authorities and some of the finest minds in the university’s health and sciences faculties have embarked on, beginning at the Buea Council Hall, Monday, July 25 2014.
Opening a series of discourses that ensued, UB’s VC said the Ebola virus is a worrying issue in the community and so UB cannot be left out in the scare, noting that it is the responsibility of UB to work
hand-in-glove with the government of Cameroon and the local communities to prevent the Ebola virus from manifesting in the country. “Everybody must get this message. When you have an epidemic like this one, everybody has to join the fight, including the university and the intellectuals. The university must do something against this deadly virus and we are stepping in with our outreach programme,” she noted.
According to Nalova Lyonga, the Ebola
virus is creating confusion within people, but will add that the hospital is the place to be in case of any suspected cases or an outbreak. “The population should come out when we need them and we must have those leading them. That is what UB is doing and what kills a man begins as an appetite. People should take the message around and no matter how you love doing or enjoying something, when the time comes for you to leave it, go ahead and leave it. That is where we are today. Bush meat, getting close to coffins, corpses, kissing here and there, we must do away
with them if we need to stay safe,” she explained.
On the epidemiology of Ebola virus, Dr. Julius Atashili of UB’s Faculty of Health Sciences indicated that Cameroonians should challenge the Ebola virus with knowledge on what the disease is all about, the causes, how it is acquired by humans, transmission and more. He will add that anybody can have the Ebola hemorrhagic fever with the following symptoms; fever, headache, muscle pains,
diarrhoea, red eyes, skin rash and vomiting.
Dr. Atashili said the signs and symptoms of the Ebola virus can take 2-21 days to manifest, mentioning that there are other hemorrhagic fevers, which may not be necessarily Ebola.
The scholar on health issues said the ‘natural reservoir’ of the Ebola virus remains unknown but it can be gotten from eating bush meat, transmitted via blood transfusion, secretions, tissues and other bodily fluids.
He cautioned that a case of the Ebola virus can cause an outbreak, so; “We must know the number of people who have been affected before, currently and how many people died. That is the only way for us to know whether we are doing well or poorly and where we need to increase resources.”
Explaining the clinical manifestation of the Ebola virus, Prof. Eric Achidi of the Faculty of Science, UB, said; “I am talking about how an infectious organism cause disease(s). When the individual is exposed to Ebola, once the Ebola virus breaks the first barrier of the skin and gets into the body, it enters into defence cells. These cells pick up the Ebola and produce a response to it, which are chemical messengers that are responsible for the fever that we have in Ebola, the vomiting, the loss of appetite and the bleeding in the tissue. The vaccines that we use are meant to tackle the cells that produce all these chemicals. The chemicals are beneficial because they attempt containing the Ebola virus but at the same time cause disease(s).”
Prof. Simeon Pierre Tchoukem of UB said in the absence of a cure for the Ebola virus, prevention is the key. He will advice that “people should get the right knowledge, know what to do in case of an outbreak, get the right attitude, avoid shaking hands in areas suspected of Ebola, avoid purchasing bush meat because if people do not buy, hunters will not hunt, cutting down the chain of transmission, avoiding the animals that carry the virus, the human to human contact when the disease is diagnosed and pursuing safe disposal of the dead.”
While encouraging the people and government of the African continent to engage in a rigorous health promotion, avoid hunting and ensuring that meat is thoroughly cooked; Prof. Tchoukem reminded the population to regularly wash their hands, wash fruits before eating and avoid fruits partly chopped by bats.
Buea Mayor, Patrick Ekema Esunge lauded UB’s efforts in pursuing the sensitisation campaign on the deadly disease, while reassuring the population that more channels will be exploited to take the message home. He hinted that the Council authorities, with the blessings from the Councillors will in the days ahead take a decision on how to manage vigils for the dead.