It is no longer news that the deadly Ebola virus (“the virus”) arrived in Nigeria for the first time late last month (July 2014). The nature of the virus requires that individuals exhibit the following characteristics in order to contain the spread and minimise fatalities:
- a keen sense of personal responsibility,
- a proper – elevated actually – sense of hygiene, and
- a respect for personal space.
As much as the various governments and medical representatives have their obligations to proactively identify potential cases, and quarantine and treat as appropriate, the individuals have an even higher obligation to themselves and to others to “turn themselves in” should any suspicion arise about: (1) exposure to the virus; (2) exhibiting symptoms of the effects of the virus. The next level from this would be enlightened self-interest, taking the place of selfishness and greed.
We all know we are supposed to wash our hands regularly – especially after using the restroom and just before eating, not pick our noses, avoid rubbing our eyes, not sneeze on people, and cover our mouths when we cough. However, we also know that we have not quite been compliant with these basic hygiene requirements. The nature of the Ebola virus is such that it cannot survive soap, detergents, antiseptic agents, bleach, and heat. The current outbreak of the virus has increased our general understanding and implementation of what should be the norm. Hopefully, these preventive measures currently being taken to be Ebola-safe will become lifelong habits that we will continue to teach those around us.
And now to the most interesting one – personal space! I am not sure how many of us actually understand what this means, given that I regularly have to turn back to the person whose breath I can feel on the back of my neck as I wait in the checkout line at the departmental store, and say “abeg dress small” (Pidgin English for “could you please move back a bit”). So, here’s a definition obtained from Google (yes, Google is my friend 🙂 ):
the physical space immediately surrounding someone, into which encroachment can feel threatening or uncomfortable.
Lagos is a very crowded town. People are constantly bumping into each other, pushing against each other, sometimes simply holding on to another for dear life. We are so used to this constant “interaction” that we still maintain the mode even when we do not have to – like my experiences at the departmental store. Now, that we have an extremely communicable disease in our midst, we have suddenly started respecting personal space, and even exaggerated it some! It would sure be nice if this appreciation of personal space is maintained long after the virus is eradicated, and becomes something we are known for :-).