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Innovating Epidemic Heroes

Finding new ways to replacing innocent epidemic heroes with new technologies and makeshift community health centers

Photo of Abiola Oyebanjo
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The uncontrollable escalation of an epidemic can be compared to the raging spread of a wild fire. You might not be able to control its atomic destruction at the early spark  but  survivors can always find their way of escape. We can't overemphasize the need to prevent an epidemic but we can't stop an hidden stubborn disease that finally found its way through. We can only prepare people on how to pull aback and most times there is always an unsung hero that makes this happen. 

There are many cases in Africa where mothers need to cover their children at nights in clothes and nets that are limited in stock so these children can survive malaria as they believe in their own immunity to survive - many never do. There are times when the only solution is for someone to test the waters with both legs so that many others can pull through - we never seem to hear about them.

When Ebola broke out in Nigerian in July 2014, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian credited with importing Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to Nigeria, contracted it when he traveled to Liberia for his sister’s . According to The Daily Mail, Sawyer was returning to Nigeria after attending the funeral of his sister who died of the disease two weeks earlier, after which her husband fled from home. He collapsed at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and was hospitalized at First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos. However, on few days later, he died.

Dr Stella Adadevoh, a duty consultant at the First Consultant Hospital, a private clinic in Lagos was the hero. It was her sharp-eyed diagnosis, however, that identified Nigeria’s first case of the virus – a 40-year-old civil servant called Patrick Sawyer, who flew in to Lagos from Ebola-devastated Liberia in July.

Sawyer had boarded a flight to Nigeria, insisting he simply had a bad case of malaria even when he collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport.

It was Dr Adadevoh, 57, who first suspected he was lying – and, crucially, then stood her ground when he began screaming to be let out of hospital and threatening staff. At one point, he had to be physically restrained after pulling out his medical drips and splashing blood around his room.

Her courage had a high price. On August 19, nearly a month after Sawyer’s death, she too died – one of eight people he passed the virus on to directly. Were it not for her quick thinking, however, the current Ebola outbreak would almost certainly be far worse than it is. Nigeria, with 170 million people, has nearly 10 times the population of the other infected nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. And Lagos, a chaotic mega-city of 17 million people, would have been a perfect petri-dish for the virus to start spreading in. Had Mr Sawyer been allowed to leave his hospital room – let alone boarded a flight to a business conference in another Nigerian city, as he had intended – the consequences could have been catastrophic.

Despite the outbreak of Ebola in neighboring nations, many Nigerians never really cared about the symptoms and precautionary measures until it almost broke. At the initial influx of Ebola in Nigeria, there were false news that salt bathing can stop Ebola infection and many Nigerian suffered from these horrible baths/


We can not afford to leave innocent souls and saggy decisions form the basis on which an epidemic will be prevented. There things are important here in innovating new heroes for controlling epidemic outbreak especially for areas and nations where there are derelict medical infrastructures like Africa

  1. Self reporting apps or self reporting mobile gadgets 
  2. Mobile Information Systems on Epidemic
  3. Community based makeshift centers for information dissemination, diagnosis and possible solutions
  4.  Availability of easy testing tools for all

In all we can create a innovative system that incorporate mobile and makeshift standby technology that can respond faster than the twerks of the disease spread

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Photo of Minh Nguyen

thank you so much for the stories and inspiration for building better stories. amazing backstory.