Quasi-News and Commentary

by Wordworks2001

Lagos, Nigeria — 31 January 2007 — Last week the first suspected cases of the Avian Flu in humans was reported in Nigerian newspapers. Two women, a mother and daughter had died mysteriously earlier in the month, the older woman from what was called an “unusual type of pneumonia.”  The daughter was hospitalized after the death of her mother and she too died within four days.

Initially, the media reported that bird flu was suspected because the two had gone to the central market the day before Christmas and purchased six live foul which they brought home, intending to use the birds for a holiday feast.  The next morning, one of the chickens was found dead.  Mother and daughter slaughtered, cleaned, prepared and cooked the remaining five birds.  It was several days that the mother fell ill and she died several days later.

On January 30, the newspaper Daily Trust  of Abuja, reported that scientists found the blood samples taken from the two women positive for a type of flu, but not H5N1.  A report of a third woman, a 22-year old from  who died also said she was negative for H5N1.  The three dead women and 11 of their acquaintances were tested and the samples were said to be positive for an unknown type of flu.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization said in a statement that the tests taken so far in Nigeria were inconclusive and further tests on the samples would be performed in London. There was a great deal of confusion over whatexactly were the results of the blood tests.

Then, today Nigerian Information Minister Frank Nweke said, the first reported death from the H5N1 virus has been confirmed.  The samples still will be validated by other labs outside of Nigeria, according to Reuters Alert Net.
Although Bird Flu has been in Nigeria for about a year, it has only been in the past few weeks that it has been reported in the south of the country.  Until then, it had not spread beyond 17 northern states that are sparsely populated.  The announcement that the virus has been found in humans in Lagos, the country’s biggest city, is somewhat disconcerting to scientist who fear the disease may become pandemic and start being spread from human to human contact.

If it is going to become a human disease, the most likely place for it to happen is in Lagos with its population of about 14 million. Many of the families that live around the islands that make up the metropolitan area of Lagos, live in delapidated shanties and houseboats that are very close to each other. The sewerage and potable water systems don’t reach many of these areas and food and water borne diseases are a constant worry. Now the health officials of this city have even bigger problems to worry about.

Will Lagos become the birthplace of the next major worldwide flu epidemic? Can the already beleagured and stretched-to-the-limits health care system of Nigeria stop this impending catastrophe?  It will take all the outside help it can get to avert a disaster of unimagined proportions.

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Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in Indiana and works in Nigeria where he is now located.  He blogs at http://wordworks2001.blogspot.com

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