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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Fighting to Stop the Outbreak

Back in the 1990s, I read a book called The Hot Zone by Richard Preston about Ebola. In case you haven't heard of it before, Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus that is between 50% and 90% fatal depending on the strain involved, and everything I've read about it suggests it's a horrible way to die.

Right now there's an Ebola outbreak going on in West Africa, the worst outbreak of Ebola since it was named in the 1970s. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 04Aug14 there have been 1603 cases of Ebola leading to 887 deaths. That's a 55% mortality rate and it could be worse. Much worse. If you check out the Ebola link in the above paragraph, you'll see the death tolls from other, smaller outbreaks.

Despite all this, there are people--nurses and doctors and others--selflessly treating the sick. Many health care workers on the ground in Africa have sickened and died from the disease, including some high profile physicians in the countries dealing with the illness.

When I imagine doctors and nurses, I like to believe these are people who are called to help the sick, not for monetary gain, but for a higher good. Too often, I'm disappointed, but there are people who have been working in Africa to treat those infected with the illness.

I don't want to slight the health care professionals who live in African countries who've been helping and healing since the beginning. They deserve all the accolades they can get, especially since the American media didn't seem to give the plight much coverage until two Americans working there were infected.

But I did want to give a shout out to the doctors and nurses from around the world who have traveled to West Africa or who will be on their way shortly to help cure the ill.

Doctors Without Borders, the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and many, many other groups are ratcheting up the response, preparing to send more doctors and nurses to the front line in the war against Ebola. It's not an easy job. There's distrust of Western doctors, some of the countries involved have been through terrible wars in the recent past, and customs that have family members washing the dead all the contribute to a level of difficulty not faced in other places. Medical personnel have been attacked, family members are hiding the ill, and even one ill person can start the outbreak all over again.

I've seen estimates online that says a best-case scenario (I read that as highly unlikely) puts the time frame at 6 months to end the outbreak. Best case scenario.

These medical workers on the ground in Africa now--both local and from other parts of the world--and those about to head into the outbreak deserve to be lauded as heroes. This is what we hope our doctors and nurses will be--selfless, caring individuals who do want to help. Who do want to make a difference. Who stand and fight illness regardless of ability to pay.

And I'll close with this. Doctors in Africa are working (many times) in poor conditions without the basics we take for granted in the US and other Western nations. These physicians and nurses have been on the front lines of this Ebola outbreak since March 2014 when the first cases were identified in Guinea. It takes courage to stand and treat patients in these circumstances, especially when health care workers are very much at risk for contracting Ebola themselves.

Maybe there's something we can do to help them and the people who are ill. The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders take donations. There are other worthy organizations working in Africa as well who could also use some help. Please consider making a donation to help these groups continue their good work.

***Opinions expressed are my own and I received no compensation from anyone, anywhere at any time for anything I wrote.***