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Worrisome cold attitude towards threat of diseases

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A MAN of about 38 years was recently sighted removing some parts of loaves of bread where it was eaten by rats in front of his house. According to him, those parts that are not affected will not harm him as he has separated the infected part. A clear view showed that the man is not ready to give up his entire bread because a rat or some rats ate some parts. This also shows that the young man doesn’t have basic knowledge about how germs have affected the whole loaf of bread. He ignorantly acted the same way our fore fathers peeled off parts of pears that were eaten by birds not knowing that time has changed; new diseases are evolving and most of them are transmitted by human contacts with animals. 

    It is worrisome that at this period when news of emerging and reemerging diseases abound, most people still have cold attitude towards taking precautionary measures to avoid the escalation of deadly and contagious diseases. Some of these diseases are transmitted through contact with body fluids of an affected person and some are air borne.

    Whenever the society hears of outbreak of any disease, they are usually pushed to do things that will prevent them from contacting those dreaded diseases. However, this disease control measures by the masses gradually loses momentum. They are not perpetually put into practice as many people drop acting on those useful health tips conveyed by government, health experts and media outlets, which from  health point of view, should be a daily and normal lifestyle of protecting dirt and germs from entering the body.

  Curtailing the spread of diseases shouldn’t begin and end with government and health agencies sanitising the environment and sensitising people on how to keep their surroundings clean, watch their hands with running water, and other personal hygiene. People should consciously adapt and take seriously the warnings and directives as some of the strange diseases have no vaccination to prevent them from entering the body or drugs to cure them. The only hope lingers on efforts to curtail them as medical experts are still on the move to find lasting cure. Part of the challenges according to some people in urban settings is lack of inadequate water supply

       Research in  parts of the country has shown that their risk perception which used to be low has increased and they’re now showing a positive attitude, while others are yet to have knowledge of it. In the past, the perception of people about every infectious diseases has been affected by religion and illiteracy. Some  even in recent time, believe that such diseases come as a punishment from God while some others resort to traditional medicine or spiritual solutions believing it is something spiritual, but thanks to the government, social media, public health workers and media houses who have done a lot by educating the public about these emerging diseases.

    Consequently, some of these dreaded diseases appear in some locations or population and disappear only to reemerge; this can be a threat to the future generation when there is no treatment or preventive drugs for them. Some of the emerging and reemerging diseases in recent time include bird flu, Zika virus, SARS, Ebola virus, Lyme disease, leprosy, HIV infection, West Nile virus, Monkey pox, Lassa fever, Corona virus and a mysterious new virus in Brazil, named Yaravirus .

  Since January 2020, when the World Health Organisation ­(WHO), under the International Health Regulation (IHR 2005)  announced the outbreak of Coronavirus  (COVID-19. It has caused a major global fear, panic and concern.  On February 20, 2020, according to China’s Health Commission, there has been reported 889 new cases, with 75,465 confirmed cases, 5,206 suspected cases and 2,236 deaths. The virus which originated from the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, in P.R China, was seen as a big threat 15 years ago when WHO, under IHR, 2005, disclosed the emergence of the virus and has spread into about 25 countries, including Egypt, Italy, Sweden, Cambodian, Canada, Finland, Germany, France, Kuwait, Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, United States, Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, India, among others. Just last week, a case of Corona virus was confirmed in Nigeria.

   The fear of further spread of diseases like Lassa fever, corona virus, etc, has made most countries to take preventive measures like travel regulations because travelling in an affected part or region can make one be at risk of being affected. People have been equally educated on keeping their homes and environment clean to ward off rodents like rats, bats and other animals.

   In rural communities especially and some urban parts, there is need for proper health orientation and knowledge for more awareness and prevention especially to those that are at these  remote area and gullible ones.  Some people are still displaying nonchalant behaviour towards management of all these deadly diseases unlike when the country was faced with the challenge of Ebola disease. To an extent, one will say that there is cold attitude of people . During the Ebola scourge, almost all offices have points where people wash and disinfect their hands. In buses also, passengers sit in positions to avoid rubbing their bodies with another and in some churches and gatherings, shaking of hands were avoided, but such measures are no longer taken presently.

   Speaking on reasons behind the negligence, Cynthia Sochima Okafor posited that it is due to lack of awareness. According to her, the masses are not fully aware of the implications. Some still see it as rumour because they feel that the disease is far in terms of geographical setting unlike Ebola that recorded deaths in the country which made a lot of people to be on alert and on guard. More so, she said  that the economy of Nigeria had changed peoples perception about death; that the fear of death is not as it used to be.

     Similarly, Mr. Elochukwu Umeh  stated that one of the reasons for the cold attitude of people to the new disease is as result of people not having proper orientation, especially those in areas that are not used to reading newspapers, radio and internet facilities. According to him, those category of people don’t have actual information on how to handle the new outbreak of viruses, adding that it is pertinent for educational institutions to include the awareness in their curriculum and relevant authorities to mobilise groups to penetrate remote and unreachable parts of the country to enlighten people on the outbreak of the diseases, the root causes of deadly diseases and give them preventive measures on tackling them.

   Umeh noted that he has taken cognisance of how deadly diseases like Lassa fever and others can be and is seriously avoiding any thing that can possibly infect him with such disease by ensuring that his foods are properly covered; has stopped sharing clothes with people and avoids contacting his body with people that are sweating, which according to him, invariably releases what is inside of them. “In my house and shop, I have rat poison and traps set for rodents so that they will not contaminate the goods that I’m selling. I always make sure all holes where they might come in are closed and I equally handle with special care anything that will attract rats.

    “Does it mean that some viral diseases are more deadly than others? Ijeoma Okereke, a seamstress who lives in Amawbia asked. She explained that some people are not reacting to world threatening virus- Coronavirus outbreak in the country in the same degree and manner they responded to Ebola virus in 2014 that claimed some lives because there haven’t been many recorded case of the virus and she doesn’t have much knowledge about the disease, how it is being gotten and signs that show someone is infected with it.

Although, Okereke said that she knew about the spread of Lassa fever in the country, she has not taken it seriously because she hasn’t seen rat in her house. “Rats don’t enter my house. If I see any, I will definitely rush to buy rat poison to terminate them. If I also see anywhere rat will enter my house, I will block it to keep them away”.

   For Very Revd. Joseph Njoku, although he has not yet done anything on enlightening people in his church on how to avert the emerging diseases like Coronavirus, he went further to advise people who may think that because of their religious beliefs, they wouldn’t be affected, to change their mindset and take necessarily precautions “ Don’t assume that because you are a Christians, you can’t be infected by those virus.

It doesn’t mean that those infected are worst sinners or people and some of the countries too that the things affected are also Christian countries or people. Christians should know that diseases don’t look at whether you are Christian or not, especially infectious diseases. Anybody who is exposed to disease in the environment of the virus, it can affect the person, although if someone believes that the disease cant affect him or her, God can equally honour that faith”, he said.

   Njoku also explained that other factors that have contributed to apparent apathy shown by people are because of the feeling that adequate preparation has been made by appropriate authorities to control them and that people are already aware and are maintaining the culture of avoiding things that can infect them with the diseases by avoiding contact with rodents, not eating foods that are exposed and it does really scare them again.

   Speaking further the clergy said that the case of COVID 19 is seen by a lot of Nigerians as Chinese thing and that it cannot really work in Africa, because there have been also a kind of rumours or awareness that Coronavirus cannot survive in our temperature or survive in tropical environment.  More so, that the gene of black man doesn’t support it to survive. “Also at a point, the federal government said that they are prepared. Because they have done their background checks and discovered that the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria is very minimal, though it cannot be ruled out completely but it is very minimal and at strategic levels, they have instituted control centers in the six geo-graphical zones set aside in case of outbreak to be able to manage it. There is this strong feeling that Coronavirus cannot survive in Nigeria which is the major security that people have that make them not to be really worried like other diseases. If you look at all the countries that have been mentioned that have experienced a case, you discover that it  is just one black African country that is mentioned and that African country is not tropical; that is Egypt, which is dominated by whites even though it is in African continent. Even our blacks that are in the affected countries tested negative of the virus, so it buttresses the point that the genes in black men do not allow it to manifest. I think that gives people a lot of relief and everybody goes about  their normal businesses but those in medical circle are not over relaxing. In medical centers here, there are measures like wash hand basins”.

 In the same light, an Environmental activist and lecturer from the Department of Environmental Management, Nnamdi Azikiwe Unversity, Awka; Funmilayo Adeniyi urged the general public to keep their environment clean, as the linkages between health and the environment are definitely very strong. “World Health Organisation revealed that 25% of the burden of diseases is linked to the environment and if we will keep our environment clean, it will have a positive impact on our health and lower our risks to diseases. Poor sanitation and personal hygiene causes cholera (which leads to diarrhea, which in turn leads to dehydration and death), typhoid fever, vector diseases like malaria, Lassa fever, leprosy, etc. Dirty surroundings serve as breeding ground for many diseases and disease causing pathogens. Hence, the need for a healthy environment and personal hygiene cannot be over emphasised”, she said.

  Adeniyi however believes that with a clean environment and good practice of personal hygiene, most of the diseases will be curtailed, adding that people should maintain good hygiene and environmental cleanliness by proper disposal of waste bins, especially in the kitchen every night, use covered waste bins and always tie up their trash bags so it doesn’t attract rodents, avoid air pollution which can lead to respiratory issues like bronchitis, wash their hands frequently especially after using the toilet, handling waste bins, and coming back from work and school, have a hand sanitiser in their cars or handbag so that one can use it in situations where they touched something filthy like an animal, soiled diaper, etc, and there’s no water to wash their hands, wash your hand with soap before preparing a meal, boil their water to 100 degrees before drinking and wash fruits well and be careful of food that are exposed to feaces and urine of rodents in their homes.

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