Saturday, June 14, 2014

Updates on Ebola

For a time, all was calm. It seemed like all cases had been contained and the number of new cases were dropping off. Peace Corps Volunteers were allowed to re-enter their health centers and continue their work. Conakry, and the richer enclaves up country (for example, the banks) became more lax in their initial surge towards preventative hand-washing. Travel became less of a scary prospect, and everyone simply adjusted to the idea that Ebola is in country, but is extremely hard to catch and is going to affect a very, very small number of extremely unfortunate individuals.

Recently, though, it seems like Ebola has made a resurgence. Many new cases have sprung up (according to the WHO, 37 between May 29th & June 1st), in a range of locations. New cases in Boke, Boffa, & Telimele, with alerts in Dubreka, show that containment wasn't entirely successful in the Basse Cote. Fortunately, new cases have been linked to old ones- this thing is still following the routine and understood mechanisms of transfer. There aren't any cases of new animal to human infection. In light of these events, Volunteers have once again been told to stay away from their medical centers, one of the few places where they could come into contact with the extremely ill (again, Ebola is rarely contagious until patients become extremely ill).

In general, Volunteers feel pretty safe. Some Volunteers continue to deal with the extremely disconcerting fact that Ebola is not only present in their region, but sometimes in their very village. Others deal with the difficulties of educating the populace about Ebola. Many Guineans feel that Ebola is a conspiracy, perhaps made up by President Alpha Conde to delay certain political processes, or introduced (or fabricated) by the West to tamper with Guinea (in the same vein as the prevalent Guinean myth that condoms actually contain HIV in the packaging). I myself was informed by a fellow teacher that Ebola did not exist, and then that it perhaps did exist but could be cured by eating frogs (proven by the fact that this teacher himself ate frogs and did not, indeed, have Ebola).

The message to take home is that the crisis isn't over, but it is still under control. Peace Corps responded rapidly and appropriately to the evolving situation. Our staff in Conakry are more than capable of keeping Volunteers safe. Send your thoughts and prayers instead to the rare and unfortunate few who will have to suffer through this horrible disease.