I am writing with the TV on. The latest CNN report is talking about U.S. President Obama’s pledge to send three-thousand troops to help fight the “deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”
I am writing in a hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. In West Africa. As a veteran journalist, I know there is a tendency for the media to oversimplify. In spite of our 24-hour-news-cycle, there is somehow not enough time to provide deep context or broader perspective on a given story. Instead, what we get are dramatic headlines designed to captivate viewers – and the notion of a virus like Ebola is certainly one that lends itself to fear.
Needless to say, I have friends who urge me in emails and on Facebook to “be safe.” “Be careful.”
A former CNN colleague and current Facebook friend of mine now works for the World Health Organization (WHO). She assured me that since Ebola is NOT an airborne virus, as long as I am not cleaning up the vomit or diarrhea of an infected person or touching an infected corpse, I will be fine. I can promise you I will not be doing either.
You are right, however, that this illness is a very serious thing. As the news continues to say, this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Liberia is particularly struggling.
Nigeria has also reported cases. But here is the perspective I promised in my title:
According to the World Bank, there are 245 million people in the 15 countries that make up the Economic Community of West Africa . A whopping 174 million of them live here in Nigeria.
The Ebola outbreak – from WHO recent figures – looks like this:
Guinea – 771 cases, 494 deaths
Liberia – 1698 cases, 871 deaths
Nigeria – 21 cases, 7 deaths
Senegal – 1 case, no deaths
Sierra Leone – 1216 cases, 476 deaths
That’s some 3,707 cases out of 245 million people.
(The Democratic Republic of Congo last week reported 62 cases and 35 deaths. But they’re not a part of West Africa geographically. )
So, here in Lagos, a bustling mega-city of around 21 million, people continue to work, play and live pretty normally.
Commendably, they are also taking new precautions against the spread of the virus. When I landed late Sunday, informational FAQ posters were everywhere.
Immediately after disembarking the airplane, each of us passengers lined up to have a doctor shine us with a temperature-taking laser. (You may recall, Ebola first arrived here after an infected Liberian diplomat flew from Monrovia to Lagos and collapsed in the airport.) In addition, hand sanitizer dispensers have been added to every building lobby I enter.
Today, as reported in the Nigerian Bulletin, President Goodluck Jonathan said there are no more active cases in Nigeria. Yes, seven people did die, but the remaining others have recovered. He proclaimed, “ The virus is under control.”
I met up with a longtime friend last night. John Walker and I used to work together at WTTG Fox News in Washington, DC. Now, he’s with the Voice of America and here to train journalists at Channels TV. I’m here working with other professional groups. Imagine us meeting again after all this time in Lagos!
We laughed and caught up at the popular local restaurant Yellow Chilli. The place was filled with other patrons – who watched the football match on TV and enjoyed themselves.
Before entering, each of us had had our temperatures laser-checked by the hostess.
It’s good to be careful.
Till, next time, take good care, everyone!
Copyright Gina London 2014. All Rights Reserved.