The Outbreak of a New Disease in Irele Ondo State

When the Ebola outbreak began in March 2014, the response of individual countries was slow. The World Health Organisation was criticised for its slow response in championing the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD). Over one year later, ebola no longer makes headlines, Nigeria did a brilliant job at dealing with the spread of the virus within Nigeria, with 12 survivors out of the 20 seen in the country. We no longer see ebola inspired fear videos such as the one below.

However, there seems to be a new outbreak, and it is not cholera (although we have seen cholera outbreaks in Ebonyi state and the state seems to be doing its best to control it). The scary new disease is one which has no name and has seen conflicting reports in the media. A new disease has been noticed in Irele in Ondo state of Nigeria and is said to have stunned the doctors who have no clue what it is. All affected patients have presented with symptoms that include breaking out in hives and rashes, very elevated blood pressure, momentary blindness and swelling of body parts (Sahara Reporters, 2015).

17 have now died as new cases continue to emerge. Tests at LUTH have not revealed what has caused these symptoms and the subsequent deaths. The pervading story is that the symptoms are linked to a seed which was consumed by the patients. Others have said that they are linked to a corpse which is said to have been exhumed.

Gov. Mimiko of Ondon State. Source:
Gov. Mimiko of Ondon State. Source:

The Governor of Ondo State has released a statement as follows:

The statement reads: “My dear good people of Ondo State, We have witnessed in the last few days a major health challenge.

“A yet to be named ailment whose causative agents, diagnosis and cure are also yet to be determined struck in locations in Irele Local Government Area of our State, killing 17 people and stoking panic and fear.

“I am, like you, saddened by this losses and the attendant fear of what looks like an epidemic.

“I can only bring words of consolation to the families of the deceased and words of comfort and assurances to the good people of our dear state.

“Our prayer at this hour is that God grants rest to the dead and fortitude to the living.

“Fellow citizens, we have, as a government, taken all necessary and available actions to respond to this health crisis.

“Amidst conflicting and confusing information, the investigating team of experts sent by government to the area gathered that all the casualties died within hours of affliction. In all, 17 deaths have been confirmed in Ayadi Community and Ode Irele township and all the deaths were preceded by symptoms of sudden blurred vision, headache and loss of consciousness.

“It must be said that the team was despatched to the communities affected and the General Hospital as well as other health facilities, to gather needed information about the nature, scope and circumstances of the outbreak. Key informants interview, hospital record search and patient interview were used to obtain information.

“I must state that the symptoms in this situation are not peculiar to any known epidemic and so have remained largely confounding.

“Specifically, it must be stressed, the symptoms observed in the two communities of Ayadi and Ode Irele bear no resemblance to those associated with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).”

Gov Olusegun Mimiko has issued a statement attempting to allay the fears of the people, but it does not say too much about what is being done. He goes on to state that this is not Ebola. Should this make people less worried or more worried? Atleast with Ebola, Nigeria now has experience in dealing with it. This new disease is very disturbing, especially since the people of the affected communities are said to believe that the disease is a punishment from the gods for desecrating the shrine.

“Agbogidi (A Study of Fertility Shrines),” 1972, by Nigerian artist; Bruce Onobrakpeya.
“Agbogidi (A Study of Fertility Shrines),” 1972, by Nigerian artist; Bruce Onobrakpeya.

All women have now been mandated to fetch buckets of water and pour at the site for cleansing. Will the men not join in fetching the water too?

Women fetching water elsewhere in the country.
Women fetching water elsewhere in the country.

The Federal Ministry of Health and perhaps the WHO need to move in to deal with what is clearly an epidemic, we can’t be having this kind of silliness in this day and age in a country as populous (imagine the potential for swelling numbers of new infections) and wealthy (we can afford the cost of protocols to control and check this) as Nigeria. The statement from Gov Mimiko says there is investigation ongoing, but what are we doing with the infections and the people they have come in contact with and all that protocol?

Ebola fact sheet; cases and deaths. Source:
Ebola fact sheet; cases and deaths. Source:

This has cost more lives in Nigeria already than Ebola. Hopefully it is dealt with swiftly.

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