Denial Spreads Ebola


Three northwestern countries on the coast of Africa are seeing the biggest outbreak of Ebola ever recorded. There will have been over 360 deaths and over 640 people infected, all due to this deadly disease. Viral hemorrhagic fever strikes by attacking capillaries causing their walls to separate slightly. This separation causes them to leak making the victims bleed from the inside. This triggers sepsis, a severe response to a foreign contaminant in the body. The body immediately overreacts in an effort to rid the body of the parasitic virus by increasing the body temperature. The increase in temperature quickens the pace of blood flow. Scrambling antibodies are flowing in every direction trying to find the source of the ailment and eliminate it, but the flowing blood leaks at each capillary, which causes a decrease in blood pressure. The final moments are ones of septic shock before death takes its toll. The best defense for Ebola is avoidance, but rampant denial is causing the spread to go relatively unchecked.

The origin of this recent outbreak came from Lofa, the same place that had a large HIV outbreak in the 1980s. Lofa is a dense jungle that is in the northwestern tip of Liberia. It borders all three of the countries involved in the Ebola outbreak, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the country most affected as of now, Guinea. The problem stemming from that area in the 80s was that residents of the area were in close contact with a close relative of humankind, sooty mangabeys. It was not until the late 80s when it was identified that sooty mangabeys were the source of the rarer strain of HIV 2. Citizens of the area facilitated the spread because they were not only keeping the animals as pets, but also consuming them as food, and therein lay the problem. Either the animal could bite the owner causing the open wound that could become infected by the animal, or they could cut themselves while preparing the animal for consumption, again exposing the wound to an infection borne from the animal.

Simians pose the largest threat to mankind as far as viruses and diseases are concerned. Because 99 percent of our genes are shared, there is an exponentially higher chance for an incurable infectious disease to be transferred over species. However, they are not the only animals that pose a threat, birds and bats are also very dangerous. Large portions of the population regularly eat bushmeat, a huge variety of meats coming from the Lofa region, including those mentioned before, and also various rodents, antelope and deer. Hunters of the region go into Lofa, and immediately sell their catch to the three neighboring countries, and in doing so, they themselves can be infected during the hunt.

According to the lead doctor of infectious diseases at Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, there has not been a reported case of Ebola in the region, since sometime in the 70s. He said that there was only one reported case, in the Ivory Coast, but then added that even one infected could spread to dozens if the proper measures are not put in place. He has admitted that the outbreak now is very real but still openly admits to eating bushmeat regularly.

Despite the fact that the Liberia has banned bushmeat and Guinea banned bat meat, most people do not have to look very far to find some of the product. Local markets are filled with the contraband that most people consider to be a delicacy. A local journalist in Liberia told Vice News, if citizens were given the choice to eat beef or fish as opposed to bushmeat, they would undoubtedly choose the bushmeat instead. Liberians openly tout that bushmeat has no chance of making them sick, saying that for generations their family has eaten it and none are sick. Many go so far as to categorically deny the existence of Ebola, or its spread into the country. The journalist said most people believed, that the poor government of Liberia merely claimed it had spread into the country, so they could collect international support.

It seems many locals will not believe the disease has arrived until people are bleeding from their eyes and petechial hemorrhages are visible on most bodies. What is worse is those that do seek help often come back to a burned down home because those that believe do not want to be infected. After the initial shock in March, people have since returned to their daily routines allowing the disease to gain a larger foothold before erupting again with more intensity. The only cure for Ebola is quelling the denial and spreading support efforts. Otherwise, the localized epidemic could go global.

By Eddie Mejia

Washington Post
Vice News
Washington Post

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