By Longtong Ibrahim
Akure (Nigeria) – No fewer than 28 people have died of a strange ailment in the past three days which broke out in Ode-Irele community of Ondo State, South-west Nigeria.
According to Ebola Alert, an evidence-driven group of volunteer professionals who helped with the Ebola Virus Disease interventions in the country, 28 people have so far died from the disease.
The organisation said the Federal Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation, and the National Centre for Disease Control had been alerted of the outbreak and are working hard to ascertain its cause.
Residents of the community say the disease broke out three days ago and spread rapidly around the community, killing its victims within 24 hours. The cause is still unknown.
Preliminary report from experts revealed neurologic clinical symptoms: blindness, and loss of consciousness.
While briefing newsmen in Akure, the state Capital, the State Commissioner of Health, Dayo Adeyanju, said 12 victims died of the disease, adding that earlier investigations showed that the disease is not Ebola as it does not manifest any of its symptoms, but it attacks the central nervous system of the victims.
Adeyanju pointed out that the state government, after getting information on the disease has deployed officials who took samples from victims and sent to Lagos for laboratory analysis to help understand the nature of the disease.
The Commissioner also warned against spreading false information especially on social media, and said the government is working hard to control the situation; advising people in the area to report any strange illness to the nearest health facility.
“I am calling on the people to avoid handling dead bodies at this period to help contain further spread of the disease,” he added.
He assured that the government is also doing its best to contain the disease from further spread, while those infected were being quarantined at the General Hospital, Irele, with other patients moved out of the facility.
Report from a journalist who visited the affected community said he was told by residents that the ailment had spiritual undertone.
He said, “Community leaders said some people broke into a shrine, and the god became angry with them, striking all those who have hands in the act,”
“Our team also saw people performing rituals in the community. They believe that the ritual will appease the gods and that the disease will end.”
In his remark, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, said he was not aware of any spiritual dimension to the development but said medical experts are on ground, attending to victims and doing all the necessary tests.