Modeling the Spread of Ebola VirusFeatured Contributors/Columnists Saturday, August 9th, 2014
By Prof. R.A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Developing an appropriate model for the spread of this deadly virus called Ebola will be useful in different frontiers of its upsurge, possibility of its containment or eradication. We need to be able to describe, explain or forecast the conception and distribution of the virus so that appropriate intervention can be adapted quickly. At present the virus kills about 90% of its victims and anyone that has contact with the victims. This process has put family members, neighbours, co-workers, fellowship members, community members, and public healthcare workers at greater risk than hitherto. In the global village we have found that Liberia and the United States of America, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and every state in the work are close and nearest neighbours. It is sad to describe the phenomenon as simply incurable right now.
We are delighted that the Minister of Health in Nigeria and his team are aware of one section of the underlying trend; that is to trace people who have first, second, third or higher level contacts with an incidence. We are not however sure that the same government and its team know what other parameters to look for in its attempt to eliminate the virus and avoid a major catastrophe. To reduce the spread of the virus to scanning only known workers and celebrities that have a degree of contact in our intervention attempts would be too simplistic indeed and making collective international efforts inadequate. In Africa the spread will have to involve possibility of spreading from persons to persons in communities, adjacent villages, fellowship and worship homes, traditional healers and public claimers of divine health providers. More people will move from infected zones in Liberia, Sera Lone and Guinea or from Lagos to the interiors of Nigeria. The larger picture of the distribution should be captured from this start upon which to build a robust model of intervention.
Ebola and smallpox viruses would look similar to me. Smallpox would kill its victims and any one who had contacts with victims or anyone who might attempt to assist the victims in anyway with contact. Yet by 1960 the United Nations declared that smallpox had been totally eradicated from the face of the earth. The medical researchers must find the similarities between this new virus and smallpox virus declared eradicated in the 1950’s. I am a survivor of smallpox that killed many in my community in the late 1940’s. My father told me that my senior brother (who is still alive) and I, and all others who were affected in the community, were not allowed to live in the village with others but they managed us far away in the bush to avoid contact and spread. When you survive you gain additional immunity to assist victims because the smallpox virus could not attack its victims more than once. My mother and my father were earlier survivor in 1920s of the same smallpox. They qualified to look after new victims.
Ebola vaccination should be developed along the memory lane of smallpox. I was excused from receiving smallpox vaccination when I got to primary school in 1957 because the system considered me and others that survived the smallpox virus to have had enough immunity. Those who are now surviving Ebola will be useful in looking after those who are being inflicted. The paradox is that what attempted to kill them may have turned around in adequately equipping them for service. The epidemiologists are saying that the two viruses belong to different families and that Ebola is deadlier than smallpox and with many more different symptoms. Ordinarily I think that Ebola is a reemergence of smallpox or some old and deadly virus that had gone underground before. The founder of Ebola is still around and what he found some 40 years ago may be different from what is currently presenting itself as Ebola. Therefore I am suggesting that potent smallpox vaccines may be tested on Ebola victims.
Even if it turns out that Ebola is entirely new on its own, or that it is a more resisting virus but of a previous one, I will still employ medical researchers to look for smallpox vaccination and use on the current victims of Ebola. The need for a very quick intervention by governments is not far fetched because there are no more distances and geographical boundaries that cannot be crossed within 24 hours anymore. The mathematical model we envisage would take into consideration contacting the virus from known victims or from victims who we do not know have been affected but they have or from both sources. It would also include a component for official travels that are recorded at boarder posts and unofficial travels that are never recorded.
I wish to use this to appeal to both the Federal government of Nigeria in one hand and others like Redeem Church of Dr. E.A. Adeboye, the popular Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) of Senior Prophet T. B. Joshua of Lagos Nigeria, and similar others spiritual homes scattered all over Nigeria to exercise a memorandum of understanding. Many victims of Ebola virus will by design, or whatever these organizations have built a reputation upon, come to Ikotun Egbe Lagos and other places, where they would be searching for divine intervention. In particular SCOAN has contributed significantly to both tourism and image making of Nigeria world while. We have said serially that Nigeria is a home for all of us including the Muslims and Christians, the believers and the unbelievers, everyone. At this critical time we should not throw away both the bad water and the baby that has made it bad. Therefore the Federal Government of Nigeria’s attempt to quarantine victims should not be compromised but T.B. Joshua and every other group and their respective teams may be provided a space to mediate on confirmed victims at no extra cost or risk to government or to the victims. We must emphasize here unequivocally that the world, because of its extreme secularity, is sliding fast to a bleak and uncharted terrain where Ebola virus, plane missing, wars and romours of wars, economic collapse, and similar others woes, are just the tips of the icebergs coming for a doomed generation. It would have been better for the less faithful if willing organizations would go to the victims rather than the victims coming to Nigeria.
The scientific model we admire is a bit more difficult to build but seems most acceptable and sure to work for all people and at all times. We read panic in the internet where different concussions are being prescribed and used for daily bath in addition to avoiding contacts with people whose Ebola status have not be identified. The Ebola phenomenon is going to improve our general hygiene but it also has the capacity to make us lose friendships and responsibilities to our much-loved ones if they are known to be victims. Meanwhile we believe that the Ebola pandemic is a passing current because its heavy torrential rains will soon end and there will be no more threat from its present surging high fever of fears and death.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
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