Monday, August 24, 2009

Swine Flu in UK: How Safe Are We?

It had seemed a far-fetched ailment, but with the recent increase in the outbreak of swine flu in many countries especially the United Kingdom, Nigeria does not seem sufficiently insulated from the malaise, what with the heavy traffic of Nigerians on the London--Nigeria route everyday. The Health ministry has begun a public education on the symptoms of the disease, but in the face of the new threat posed by the spread of the disease in UK, more concrete measures are called for. We are worried that given the huge human traffic between Lagos/Abuja and London, especially during this summer season there is a high probability that carriers of the disease from the UK can easily get into the Nigerian environment and thus begin the spread of the disease in the country. In the past two weeks, England has had 30,000 recorded cases of swine flu infection. The week before, it recorded 110,000 cases. This is no doubt frightening, especially as the disease has claimed about forty lives in both England and Scotland. About 1,126 deaths have been recorded from afflictions of the disease in some six countries like Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile, America and Argentina. The fact that Nigerians are spread round the globe, and are highly mobile makes us particularly vulnerable. It would seem that besides the mere television enlightenment on the disease, there is no clear strategy by the government to contain the epidemic if it breaks out in Nigeria. Worse still, there is hardly any device in our entry borders to check whether or not, persons coming into the country are infected with such diseases. The nation, therefore stands a clear risk in the face of the cross-border connection between the United Kingdom and Nigeria, which is further worsened by the absence of control measures in the country. Going by past experiences and our general attitude to such matters, it has become imperative for the Federal Government to mount a more aggressive public enlightenment campaign on the disease; and to take precautionary measures to ensure that Nigeria is protected from the disease. Besides educating the people on the symptoms which are essentially sudden fever (above 38C), sudden cough, tiredness, chills, sore throat, sneezing, diarrhea, stomach upset and loss of appetite among others, it is necessary to tell which segment of Nigerians is more vulnerable to the disease – pregnant women, 65-year olds and above, and children under five years. People with chronic liver, kidney, heart and lung diseases as well as asthma patients are more vulnerable. Nigerians will also need more awareness on how to contain the disease and stop it from spreading, if we experience an outbreak. Government must also put in place measures to ensure that even when there is an outbreak, the nation is not caught napping.