For a bug lady like me, it really shakes me up when one of these really hit close to home and takes its toll on the colleagues. He passed away in the evening of the 2nd of August in the ICU of the Curren Hospital in a tiny place called Zorzor, Liberia. A dear friend offered to go there as he felt he was called by God to serve the humanity there. When challenged with the need by the mission, he volunteered. He worked hard for the last 9 months making a real difference by putting into place efficient hospital systems and thereby saving more lives than the meagre medical resources could. Unfortunately, he developed a fever and the blood smear showed malaria 1+. The doctor in Zorzor started him on the strongest anti-malarial known and sent him to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia and endured a tough 8 hour road journey to get better treatment.
Unfortunately almost all the hospitals in Liberia are closed because of the Ebola epidemic which is killing people like flies. The few hospitals open are taking Ebola patients only and hence my friend was turned away since the tests showed that he did not have Ebola or Lassa fever. He took the only recourse open to him to go back to Zorzor to get basic hospital care. When he got back, the deterioration was rapid and he passed away by the next evening. So will he be counted as a statistic when we finally do the head count of those succumbing to Ebola or not? How many more serious illnesses have been denied care owing to this virus raging rampant in the poorest of poor countries of West Africa? As of yesterday, confirmed, probable, and suspect cases and deaths from Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone : Total Cases 2240, Deaths 1229.
To reduce the likelihood that those who are infected will carry the disease outside their communities, the governments have set up quarantine zones in areas of high transmission including severely-affected cities such as Gueckedou in Guinea, Kenema and Kailahun in Sierra Leone and Foya in Liberia… exotic names of faraway places but with the newspapers full of dreadful stories, does one wonder that this killer virus will reach our doorstep? WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions except in cases where people have been confirmed or are suspected of being infected with Ebola Virus Disease or report a contact with a known case. But the reality is different. Airports are sealed, my poor friends body could not be repatriated to the grieving family. Will they ever get closure? How will this disease be contained when there are reports of looting a quarantine center in Liberian slum of West Point where 17 Ebola patients have gone missing and looters have taken away sheets and mattresses visibly stained with blood, vomit and excrement? EVD is spread through bodily fluids including blood, vomit, feces and sweat.
The attack comes just one day after a report of a crowd of several hundred local residents chanting “No Ebola in West Point” drove away a burial team and their police escort that had come to collect the bodies of suspected EVD victims in a slum in the capital.
Thankfully, the risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel is low. Unlike infections such as flu or TB, Ebola is not spread by breathing air (and the airborne particles it contains) from an infected person. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler.
The risk of getting infected on an aircraft is also small, as sick persons usually feel so unwell that they cannot travel, and infection requires direct contact with the body fluids of the infected person.
So are we at risk? Not as yet since On 8 Aug 2014, WHO has declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and Ministries of the affected nations are taking precautions to contain this virus. So we are relatively safe till we take basic precautions of good hand washing and staying away from affected regions of the world. Do join me in prayer for those like my friend who have unwittingly lost their lives to this raging virus not directly but as collateral damage.