Wednesday, July 15, 2015


They were given 72 hours to leave to pack a bag and fly across the world and fight Ebola.  When they got there, the disease was already rampant.  Traditional burial practices and fear had made this disease spread faster than anyone had ever imagined and they had to hit the ground sprinting.  An alphabet of NGO acronyms competed to put their letters on the isolation tents and the efforts were disjointed and competitive.  Their task wasn’t just to move in and cure Ebola.  They had to figure out how to change the behavior of burial practices so people would not wash the dead before burying.  They had to work with anthropologists to connect with traditional healers and to learn about community practices.  They had to figure out how to set up isolation units when people feared that they would get Ebola if they went to them.  They had to teach local staff how to properly put on and take off protective equipment so that they would not infect themselves.  How do you turn over beds when Ebola has such a long infectious period?  How do you motivate health workers to come to work when their peers are dying from the disease all around them?

My friend talked of a major spread in one of her villages in Sierra Leone because two gang members got into a bloody fight. One died in the fight and the other contracted Ebola from blood contact.  He went into hiding because he was now running from murder.  In the process he infected hundreds of people and would not surrender to the hospital for fear of being jailed.

Now the questions are, how do you prevent a future outbreak if we do not know the animal reservoir?  And what are the long term effects the disease on Ebola survivors?  What about how we know Ebola can stay in the semen but we have no data on how long it lasts for? 

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