Exclusive Commentary: Challenges in Port Harcourt

Port-Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub and third busiest city, saw its first confirmed case of Ebola 2 weeks ago. Now, there are 3 confirmed cases, 2 deaths including the index case—a physician—and over 200 people under surveillance.

Challenges to surveillance include difficulty in reaching contacts of cases. Contacts of the index case include hotel guests and staff, family, friends, church members, hospital staff, patients operated on by the index case after onset of his symptoms, and morticians who received his corpse.

People with fever no longer go to hospitals as they fear being thought to be sick of EVD. Others fear contracting the disease from infected patients or health workers. Some hospital staff promise to work only when personal protective equipment (PPEs) are provided. It was reported that witnesses refused to touch an accident victim who bled to death. A certain percentage of people think the outbreak is a political gimmick.

The past weekend was quiet on Ebola but we don’t know if ‘no news’ is good news, or simply no news. Whatever the case, I believe Nigeria has learnt the importance of hygiene, epidemiology and public health in general.

Kattey Kattey, MBBS, MPH ’11, lives in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.