Nigeria and Senegal beat back Ebola, yet Americans increasingly fearful

Ebola response volunteers in Nigeria. (Credit: CDC Global)

Nigeria is the second country to successfully root out, treat and end the transmission of Ebola within its borders. The West African nation cleared 42 days without a new Ebola case and was declared Ebola-free by the World Health organization on Monday. Senegal, another country that saw Ebola cross its borders, passed the Ebola-free threshold on Friday.

“WHO commends the Nigerian Government’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response that included the rapid establishment of an Emergency Operations Center,” said the organization in a statement on Monday. “Strong public awareness campaigns, teamed with early engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders, played a key role in successful containment of this outbreak.”

Dozens in the United States also got the all-clear over the weekend. They were among those who had come into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died in Dallas from the virus. With roughly 50 people now safe, all that remain are the health workers who treated Duncan and those who came in contact with the infected Dallas nurses.

Credit: WHO

Credit: WHO

As Nigeria and Senegal proved, it is possible to quickly and efficiently stop Ebola. Some serious mistakes have been made, but signs point to Ebola being under control in the United States. Fear, however, is spiking.

The case of Nigeria shows that having the right parts in place make it easier to address the arrival of Ebola. Nigeria passed the milestone of eradicating guinea-worm earlier in the year. Key to that success was to use of community health workers helped rid Nigeria of the parasite, and who are part of the anti-polio effort.

Technologies used to stop polio were applied to Ebola. Satellite-based tools designed to track polio, helped determine possible cases and people who came in contact. People were tracked and traced in real-time, which helped prevent Ebola from spiraling out of control.

The program was so successful and innovative that other countries – including wealthy nations with what are considered to be excellent health systems – are looking to Nigeria.

“If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this – that is, make significant progress towards interrupting polio transmission, eradicate guinea-worm disease and contain Ebola, all at the same time – any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

It is a message that Americans would do well to heed. Hysteria is keeping kids out of school. Schools in Ohio and Texas closed over concerns after an infected nursed traveled between the two states by plane. Two children who moved from Rwanda to New Jersey recently will not go to school for three weeks, with officials citing Ebola concerns. Even though there are no known Ebola cases in Rwanda right now.

An unidentified woman was seen sitting in a lounge at Washington DC's Dulles Airport, wearing a transparent blue plastic suit.Someone snapped the picture, left, of an unidentified woman seated in a lounge in Washington, D.C.’s, Dulles Airport, wearing a transparent blue plastic suit. It echoes the protest against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s handling of Ebola by Dr. Gil Mobley, a microbiologist and emergency trauma physician. He donned a white suit with the message “CDC is Lying” written on the back in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Political leaders and pundits in the United States are seizing on the outbreak to call for the resignation of CDC head Dr. Thomas Frieden, to question President Obama’s leadership and for a travel ban from the three affected countries.

“The government told us that national quarantines won’t work, but then they quarantine everyone with Ebola – or who has been near someone with Ebola, such as an entire NBC crew. To me, this suggests that there’s some value in keeping people who have been near Ebola away from people who have not,” wrote Ann Coulter in a column last week.

Her comments pale in comparison to what others are saying. Nigerian journalist Chika Oduah collected some of the reactions to an AP article detailing the ways the Ebola outbreak has further damaged Africa’s image.

“The image of Africa I had before hasn’t changed… it’s still a giant S* hole!” writes one person.

“Western Africans were slaves for a reason. Come on – these people are just trash,” says another.

Fear was also a problem in Nigeria and Senegal. In the end, a rigorous approach to preventing the spread of Ebola worked in both countries.

The countries prove that Ebola is manageable here in the United States and in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]