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Fighting a careless killer: the Ebola outbreak in Guinea

There is a killer claiming lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Its name is Ebola and, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it has taken 603 people as of 12 July. Of these, 198 were from Guinea, where the outbreak originated.  

The Ebola virus has been affecting West Africa for six months. And rumours, superstitions, cultural customs and fear are key factors that have helped it to continue spreading.  

Health agencies such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Red Cross have been blamed by some local people for bringing the virus to Guinea. The Red Cross reports that some Guineans believe that the doctors wear protective suits because the disinfectant products they use are actually poisons used to spread Ebola, not stop it. In one instance, a Red Cross site temporarily removed international staff after they were threatened by a group of naked locals armed with knives, according to a Reuters article published on 2 July. In another instance, some young men threw stones at an MSF car.  

In the face of these challenges it is difficult to understand why anyone who does not need to be in the infected region would go back. Especially since the virus poses such danger to patients and doctors alike.

However, when BMS mission worker Dr Eric Bafende, who was on home assignment in the UK at the time, heard about the outbreak in February, he asked to return to the country in which he serves. “As the director of the Medical Centre in Macenta, I had no choice,” says Eric. “As a soldier dies on the battle field, it is my duty to take care of people even if it could lead to my death. 

“I already knew how to treat Ebola from working with an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” continues Eric, “I knew that with a few rules of prevention, it could be contained.”

But how do you stop people from touching their deceased loved ones? Eric has reported that mourners are kissing and washing their dead, despite warnings not to. Even after death the bodies’ fluids still contain the virus. Ebola can then be passed into the water and left on any surface it touches. And with Ebola’s fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, doctors like Eric are urging everyone to be extra careful.

Despite the present challenges, Eric does not believe the situation in Guinea is hopeless. His hospital in Macenta has not had a case in over a month and Eric has given a hopeful projection that Guinea will be free of Ebola in three months.

Please pray for Eric Bafende and all the doctors, nurses and volunteers involved in the relief effort. Pray that God will protect them from the virus and give them the strength to continue fighting it in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Also, pray that no one loses hope and the numbers being reported will continue to decrease.

Please keep the families of the doctors, nurses, volunteers and victims in your prayers as they either worry over the safety or mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Donate today to support BMS’ lifesaving work in Guinea and around the world.


This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

BMS World Mission, 18/07/2014
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