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Wash your hand, prevent Ebola

The Ebola Virus Disease is killing daily in various parts of West Africa. In fact, as at last count, about 1,825 persons have been infected with the viral disease in the last seven months, while over 900 persons have died.

Some may still wonder: Why are there so many causalities? It is simple! It is a highly infectious disease, such that one can contact it just by touching the surface that an infected person had touched previously.

Experts say you only need to have touched the body fluids of an infected person – which include sweat, saliva and tears – for you to get infected. It is that deadly.

But as infectious as Ebola is, there are some lifestyle and hygienic habits that one can adopt as an individual, family or organisation to reduce one’s risk of contracting it.

One of them is hand washing with soap. Public health physician, Dr. Segun Adeboye, notes that the importance of washing one’s hands with soap and water to get rid of germs , bacteria and other viruses cannot be overemphasised.

According to him, this age-long habit has been proved to reduce the risk of getting infections by more than 60 per cent.

Adeboye says, “ Many people are aware of washing of hands, but what we are saying is that you should use soap or a disinfectant when you are washing those hands. That is what will kill the bacteria or virus. Also, the hand is the means by which most infections are contracted. And the average person touches his/her mouth at least 10 times a day.

“Imagine if you had touched an infected person with your hand unknowingly, and you don’t wash your hand before eating. You have introduced a virus into your body just by being negligent. Science has proved that 70 per cent of infections are contracted via the mouth through the hands.”

Well, access to portable water is still a challenge in most cities in Nigeria. However, you can always improvise with hand sanitisers. They are portable, which means you can carry one in your bag, car and in your office.

Adeboye notes that organisations with employees that are more than 50 should have hand sanitisers installed in major entry points in their offices.

He notes that people who live or work in places with a large number of people are at a greater risk of contracting such infections.

“ Ebola virus control is all about containing contacts. That means you should limit contact with people. But in a work place you cannot limit contact with people; so you promote the use of hand sanitisers, which have been chemically designed with natural disinfectants. It is potent but not poisonous. It is user-friendly and it is absorbed quickly into the skin, unlike when you use water and you have to clean with cloth again, which may now contaminate the hand you just washed. We must encourage more people to key into hygiene. Insist that the restaurants where you eat have it. Install it in your homes.”Adeboye adds.

Any hospital that has the safety of its patients and health workers at heart would have had sanitisers installed in each of their wards and facilities by now – including the toilets.

Experts note that the hospital environment remains the easiest place to contract infections and health workers must ensure that they do not become the carrier of the virus, thereby endangering their lives and that of other patients.

They insist that hospital owners must sensitise their workforce on the importance of decontamination as a means of infection control.

Adeboye says,“ The standard practice is that a doctor or nurse must wash his/her hands or use sanitisers before examining a patient and after examining the patient. There is no room for compromise now. We should not be seen as people that are careless again. We cannot let our guards down because Ebola is nearer than we think.”

You may need to take these strategies seriously, as Ebola is nearer than we think. Why? Of the many contacts that have been traced, only few have been isolated. Those that are being monitored are not quarantined, and they may be your relative, co-worker or those who play with your kids in school.

These are times for drastic measures especially if you live in Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, with a population of over 18 million people, where four persons have died of Ebola and 178 contacts are being are monitored .

However, it is not just about Ebola. Hand washing with soap and water has been proved to prevent one from contracting diarrhea and pneumonia infections , diseases killing more than 100,000 children annually in Africa.

Use this weekend to look at ways you can make your home cleaner and safer for you, your family and your community.

Have a great weekend!

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