Teacher’s Diary

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It is amazing how indeed things do happen cyclically. History, great and small does repeat itself. I wrote the article below in Thisday Newspaper Nigeria, in 2017. Then persistent coughing, breathing difficulty and general malaise were novel in the country. Tuberculosis was the respiratory illness at this time and was given wide attention in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.

Not so today, persistent coughing, breathing difficulty and general malaise have adorned another identity in the entity of COVID-19. Indeed coughing is the more visible sign and symptom of novel coronavirus; the others being fever and breathing difficulty. Additionally, loss of the senses of taste and smell are being added to the symptoms of coronavirus as being increasingly seen in younger people.

With COVID-19, come new themes and modes of operation. An entirely new repertoire of words is currently in use around the world. We are now enacting words which include: the following: remote/remote access; virtual; locked-in; stay-at-home; furlough; ‘covidiot’; quarantine; isolation; social-distance; social-responsibility and pandemic.

Today, history has cycled around and tweaked ‘social-distancing’ to currently mean the avoidance of close contact with other people during this ongoing outbreak of contagious coronavirus disease. In practice, we are maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people. The essence of this is to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of the infection.

Social distance has been in use since the early 19th century. It originally meant the degree of acceptance or rejection of social interaction between individuals and especially those belonging to different social groups based on race, religion, gender and class.

Today’s style of social distancing will take a while to get used to especially with our ingrained communal mentality in Nigeria. So please don’t rush too quickly to throw Funke Akindele away with her bath water. Line have had to be conspicuously drawn on the floor of our offices, shops, all high-traffic areas to keep us two meters away from each other.

Funke (and all Funkes’ at home must now signage the floors of their studios, offices and other public buildings to effect this life saving 2m demarcating lines. Parties, celebrations, and all ‘owambes’, which are our way of life, must hold-off until this pandemic abates.

It is tough as well here but we are generally keeping apart to save lives. Nonetheless, naughtiness cannot be completely ruled out! Yesterday, as I waited at a bus top, a lady who stood about 2metres quite alright away from me coughed. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t wrong to cough! The issue with this lady was that she coughed repeatedly right into the air making no effort to cough into a tissue or into the crock of her sleeve!

I couldn’t believe my eyes; this woman just kept on coughing unconcernedly into the air – mouth uncovered! I thought, What with all the media, social media, tabloids, leaflets and word of mouth hyping passing on advice on maintaining coughing etiquettes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The problem with coughing today, is that COVID-19 has now killed more than 50,000 lives worldwide’ Coughing can indicate that you have caught the coronavirus and are expressing a symptom of it. Therefore and it behooves you (and anyone coughing) to cough responsibly and seek immediate medical advice on it.

The other problem with coughing today is that the presence of tuberculosis (and other respiratory conditions) is fading to the rear and in danger of being given less attention. So to my 2017 article in Thisday Newspaper Nigeria, I wrote:

“Current World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) fact sheets online, informs that last year, 1.8 million people worldwide died of Tuberculosis. It states that 95% of these deaths occurred in low income and middle income countries. Interestingly, it further informs that, only six countries accounted for 60% of the deaths amongst these two types of countries. Sadly, Nigeria is fourth of these six worst-hit countries.

In Nigeria this year, there have been a number of clarion calls aimed at addressing the scourge of the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for the menace of tuberculosis. An online article by Femi Ajasa, April 5, 2016, correctly identifies Nigeria as the second African nation with the burden of TB. It suggests that this case persists given the problem of “low case detection “and “low coverage of vulnerable people”…”

Omoru is a freelance writer, education, health and social care advocate.