A Rallying Call! Ebola Crisis Now Everybody’s Business
It must now be clear to everyone, skeptics included that not only is the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and come to think of it, with the current cases in Nigeria one could say in West Africa, is now the business and concern of everybody join in the fight to eradicate it. The whole country is now at risk because just as it only takes only a spark to cause a forest conflagration, Ebola requires no more than one infected person to affect a whole community. Incidentally that is the way it has been spreading, through initial contact with one affected person. It has spread its tentacles even to the United States of America through the evacuation there and we are told under very stringent prevention measures of an American doctor that had been treating patients in neighbouring Liberia.
Hospital staff have succumbed to the attack and our own social behavior through sentimental and emotional family considerations has only exacerbated the situation. The death of an infected patient who had been to the Nixon Memorial Methodist hospital in Segbwema has led to the two members of staff who were in contact with him to be taken away with other members of his family for testing and observation.
While I was in Kailahun last Friday an infected patient in Pendembu led to her entire household being taken to the treatment unit in Kailahun. It is this scourge, the hosting and concealing of family members with suspected or outright infection that is an important factor in containing the infection very difficult.
I arrived in Kailahun shortly after President Bai Koroma’s brief visit to the district headquarters which is one of the treatment units that also hosts the medical team of “Doctors without Borders.” MSF. I applaud his statement to the people which was not only very NON-PARTISAN but a rallying call to the people to change their attitude to the outbreak and to unite and cooperate with the professional people in the fight to contain and eradicate the virus in the country.
From comments and reaction which I gathered over my four day stay, I was left in no doubt that the people now had a better understanding of the situation and were as determined as the government and the health workers to bring the crisis to a speedy end.
His Excellency must also be commended for listening to and following the advice of some well meaning of his subjects and cancelled his planned visit to the United States for the planned African/American summit in Washington DC.
Sierra Leone is a very secular religious country and it was gratifying that various religious leaders had already been invoking divine intervention from God/Allah in the fight. While I applauded the decision to set last Monday aside as a day of Prayer and Meditation, I would have thought that an ecumenical service in the National Stadium would have been a fitting climax to our day of meditation.
I had commented previously that one reason for the initial lack of cooperation from the people in the affected area was the way some of the messages were put across. I would never have put the “NO CURE FOR THIS SICKNESS” at the beginning of my exhortation. A different approach would have been that although we had a very dangerous disease to deal with yet those who received early treatment stood a better chance of cure.
I had also commented and it was a point that one of our doctors confirmed at a one day workshop on the way the symptoms were presented with emphasis on blood in the vomit and stool when the phrase “May be present” would have made a significant difference because our illiterate brothers and sisters were looking for blood rather than focusing on the vomiting and diarrhea.
Finally i had offered my services to my colleague the Chief Medical Officer to participate in the education and awareness campaign. I was not favoured with the courtesy of an acknowledgement. It may be that they already had enough people in the field.
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