Lost amid the current relentless media buildup of the Ebola=Africa, Africa=Ebola mindset, are several important bits of information. The first is that the CDC and other Western health systems (e.g., Canadian Health Ministry) have been studying various strains of Ebola in Africa for more than 20 years, and the CDC even established a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Laboratory in Uganda in 2010-2011 to act as a major research and strategy center for the disease. Russia also established its own lab and in two instances—1996, 2004—lab personnel contracted Ebola through accidental needle contamination. In both cases in Russia, the patients died, but there was no public outbreak of the disease. England and Italy have also had early brushes with the virus in the 1970s and 1990s but, again, there was no public epidemic.

Secondly, Ebola, according to all medical records, has never been a West African problem before this current serious outbreak. Previous Ebola episodes, from 1976 to 2013, had all been in either East Africa (primarily Uganda), or Central Africa (primarily the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire). None of those previous outbreaks had involved more than 450 known cases at any one time, although the death rate from the disease usually remained in the 40-50 percent range. So this latest outbreak in West Africa (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone), including the 4,655 recorded patients (and so far, 2,431 deaths) is really precedent-setting.

Thirdly, in this era of the African Union’s bold mission to unify the continent, Africans themselves have not been mere bystanders to disaster. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had a visit from an Ebola-infected Liberian official last July, and the man collapsed in the middle of the Nigerian International Airport in Lagos. This had all the signs of a major catastrophe. Nigerian doctors were already on strike for higher pay, the Nigerian medical establishment was already over-burdened, and Lagos remained full of densely populated ghettos. Besides that, Nigerian businessmen and women traveled often and widely to other countries.

But in spite of what appeared to be an inevitable nightmare scenario, the Nigerian medical establishment stopped Ebola in its tracks in the country. How?

The clinic that treated the collapsed official never let him leave the premises. An emergency presidential order allowed the tracing of mobile phone records and the complete tracking down of every contact from the plane and the airport. Altogether, there were more than 800 such contacts, including the congregations of two churches. All contaminated material was destroyed. In essence, there was a rare cooperation between the Lagos state government, the Nigerian federal officials, private sector officials, and public health administrators all getting on the same page. Nigeria engaged in a massive public information campaign to stave off public panic, particularly using social media.

And, the chief medical officer for the collapsed patient, who became infected herself but who survived, strongly advocated relentless rehydration as an aid in combating the disease. Patients were urged to drink more than five liters of water per day. Of the 20 Nigerians infected from treating the Liberian official, eight died.

This was a strong example of Africans successfully applying African solutions to what was rapidly becoming an African problem. That is exactly what the African Union advocates, and what the world needs to see more of—Africa not the problem, but very much a part of the solution.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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