Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Health Workers

Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Health Workers
Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Health Workers

Whatapp NewsTelegram News

KOLO BENGOU, Guinea — Eight youths, some armed with slingshots and machetes, stood warily alongside a rutted dirt road at an opening in the high reeds, the path to the village of Kolo Bengou. The deadly Ebola virus is believed to have infected several people in the village, and the youths were blocking the path to prevent health workers from entering.

“We don’t want any visitors,” said their leader, Faya Iroundouno, 17, president of Kolo Bengou’s youth league. “We don’t want any contact with anyone.” The others nodded in agreement and fiddled with their slingshots.

Singling out the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, Mr. Iroundouno continued, “Wherever those people have passed, the communities have been hit by illness.”

Health workers here say they are now battling two enemies: the unprecedented Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 660 people in four countries since it was first detected in March, and fear, which has produced growing hostility toward outside help. On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease.

“This is very unusual, that we are not trusted,” said Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, the main group fighting the disease here. “We’re not stopping the epidemic.”

Efforts to monitor it are grinding to a halt because of “intimidation,” he said. People appear to have more confidence in witch doctors.

Health officials say the epidemic is out of control, moving back and forth across the porous borders of Guinea and neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia — often on the backs of the cheap motorcycles that ply the roads of this region of green hills and dense forest — infiltrating the lively open-air markets, overwhelming weak health facilities and decimating villages.

It was in this rural area, 400 miles over bad roads from Guinea’s capital, Conakry, where the outbreak was first spotted, and where it has hit hardest. More than 80 percent of those infected have died in this region, and Guinea has recorded more than twice as many deaths as the other countries.

In Koundony, more than one-eighth of the population, including the headman, are dead; many others have fled.

There is no known cure for the virus, which causes raging fever, vomiting, diarrhea and uncontrolled bleeding in about half the cases and up to 90 percent of the time, rapid death. Merely touching an infected person, or the body of a victim, is dangerous; coming into contact with blood, vomit or feces can be deadly.

Now the fear of aid workers, principally from Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, is helping to spread the disease, health officials say, creating a secondary crisis.

Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away.

This month, Doctors Without Borders classified 12 villages in Guinea as “red,” meaning they might harbor Ebola but were inaccessible for safety reasons.

As recently as April, the epidemic seemed to be under control. But in the past two weeks, its center appeared to have shifted across the border to Sierra Leone, where most of the new dead were being recorded. The sick are being hidden and the dead buried, without any protection.

Last week, the Sierra Leone Health Ministry reported that its lead doctor fighting Ebola had contracted the disease, and the virus had spread to a fourth country, with a confirmed fatality in Nigeria. Over the weekend, an aid organization working in Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse, said that two Americans, a doctor who was treating Ebola patients and an aid worker on a case management team, had tested positive for the virus. And the Liberian government said Sunday that one of its most high-profile doctors had died of Ebola, according to The Associated Press. [eap_ad_2] Back in Guinea, in the village of Wabengou, residents placed a tree in the road to block outsiders. They also attacked an official delegation from Conakry, rushing its cars, banging on the vehicles and brandishing machetes, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Spread the love

Whatapp News

Telegram News