The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declares that Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission.

Nigeria map/CIA

Africa’s most populous country completed the 42 days without a new Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case to receive this most welcome status.

The largest city in Nigeria, Lagos, with a population of 21 million – is almost as large as the populations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined.

As the United States Consul General in Nigeria, Jeffrey Hawkins, said at the time, “The last thing anyone in the world wants to hear is the 2 words, ‘Ebola’ and ‘Lagos’ in the same sentence. ” As he noted, that single juxtaposition conjured up images of an “apocalyptic urban outbreak”.

That never happened. With assistance from WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, government health officials reached 100% of known contacts in Lagos and 99.8% at the second outbreak site, in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub.

Federal and State governments in Nigeria provided ample financial and material resources, as well as well-trained and experienced national staff.

Isolation wards were immediately constructed, as were designated Ebola treatment facilities, though more slowly. Vehicles and mobile phones, with specially adapted programs, were made available to aid real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward.

Health and government officials fully appreciated the importance of communication with the general public. They rallied communities to support containment measures.

House-to-house information campaigns and messages on local radio stations, in local dialects, were used to explain the level of risk, effective personal preventive measures and the actions being taken for control. On his part, the President Goodluck Jonathan reassured the country’s vast and diversified population through appearances on nationally televised newscasts.

Essentially, the outbreak was contained thanks to the  country’s strong leadership and effective coordination of the response.

All told, Nigeria reported 20 confirmed and probable cases of EVD and 8 fatalities.