The mere mention of the deadly Ebola virus can strike fear in just about anyone. As this lethal threat continues to spread, whole families are torn apart and left devastated in its wake. As the crisis unfolds it is becoming clearer that Ebola is a triple threat in its ability to kill, steal and destroy. This article will explore the ways in which Ebola takes its toll. Although Ebola is a very worrisome topic, what seems to be lacking in some discussions are the after effects felt by family members who have lost loved ones, as well as the social stigmas that are already being applied to certain groups.
The ways in which Ebola claims lives is a messy and scary affair in and of itself. Some of the diseases symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, which even under normal circumstances are hard to deal with. That, coupled with the fact that Ebola can cause its victims to bleed from bodily orifices is an added concern. Ebola not only kills its victims, it decimates family bonds and separates people from one another. As the epidemic grows, so does the fear of coming into contact with those who may have been exposed in one way or another. This disease not only manages to take away lives, it is affecting the important need of maintaining basic civil relations between cultures. Even now health workers in Liberia are planning to strike over wages, if this occurs even more people will be left vulnerable and may die as a result.
The opportunity to say goodbye is stolen from families and that is troubling to many cultures, particularly to those who are being hit the hardest by Ebola. West Africans are reeling from the impact of the disease on family relations as they are known to engage in intensive rituals for their dead. The Ebola virus is even more contagious after death according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). It is disheartening to think that so many families will not have the chance to give their deceased loved ones a proper burial, let alone say a proper goodbye. This is a truly heartbreaking side effect of Ebola as family members are not able to sit with sick loved ones and comfort them in their time of need.
Although many healthcare workers are compassionate in their administrations, there is still the lack of familial bonds that can make all the difference in ones ability to recover. Those who are stricken are dealt an even more devastating blow as many die alone and without dignity, with no one to be with them in their last moments. In this way, Ebola manages to steal away the basic dignities usually afforded to the dying. Ebola, in its ability to be a triple threat by killing, stealing and destroying, leaves many unanswered questions as to how average people should deal with its fallout. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die from Ebola in America, allegedly died alone and was quickly cremated thus denying his family the opportunity to honor his life in the traditional manner. Granted this was done out of the need for extreme caution, however, the seeming lack of attention to the glaring issue of honoring the deceased is troubling to say the least.
Whole Families are being destroyed and left without financial support when caretakers die. Homes that harbored the sick and dying are being abandoned, leaving surviving occupants to seek out new dwellings. Sadly, many of the sick were left to die in the streets in stricken African countries. As a result, extended family members may be reluctant to take in the dependents of those who have passed away from fear of contamination and or hardship. This is an economic nightmare as the majority of the victims thus far are already poor and destitute. Economic watchdogs are sounding the alarm regarding the toll Ebola is already taking in the areas of research funding and medical intervention.
What is also troubling are the stigmas placed on those of African descent. It has been reported that some of the school children that had been exposed to Mr. Duncan were shunned at their respective schools. These children were not only singled out for that connection, they were also taunted and called “The Ebola Kids” by other students. As the potential for this disease to spread increases, so does the potential for those in predominantly African demographics here in the states to become pariahs in their communities.
Ebola and the triple threat it imposes on humanity to kill, steal and destroy is unmatched by any other disease in modern history. Because the outbreak is yet in its early stages, many people have no idea just how serious a toll it can take on families and whole communities. To die alone and afraid is a nightmare most do not wish to experience, so while it is imperative to proceed with the utmost caution in dealing with this threat, it is also important to remember that every life matters, regardless of race or social positioning. Steps must be taken to maintain personal dignities as much as possible moving forward. As America and surrounding countries struggle to bring this threat to a halt, it is imperative to remember that Ebola is a disease of the body and we must therefore guard against it becoming a disease of the heart. Be well.
Op-Ed By Mai Nowlin