Ebola Victims – Survivors Now Fighting Prejudice and Stigma
It is been roughly four years since the Ebola virus hit West Africa, locals and ebola victims are still traumatized to date. The epidemic left over 11,000 people dead, with another 29,000 infected. Though it was contained, life after Ebola has never been the same for both survivors and communities at large.
The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 was traced to a young boy in a village in the country of Guinea. He was suspected to have gotten the virus from touching an infected bat in December 2013. In Guinea, children hunt bats for food. He then transmitted it to his mother, who in turn infected other family members, triggering a domino effect of ebola victims.
The Ebola virus outbreak later continued across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The three countries were not particularly advanced in healthcare, with most of their already few health facilities being understaffed, poorly equipped and few and far between.
With more and more people coming into the health facilities infected, the few available resources were quickly strained, and the Ebola virus outbreak quickly reached epidemic levels. The worst hit was Liberia, particularly in the West Point slum within Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
Ebola Victims: Prejudice and Stigma
Luckily, disease experts, health workers and crisis response teams from across the world moved in to help contain the epidemic, and by mid-2015, Liberia was declared Ebola-free. There were thousands of Ebola survivors now overjoyed after their near brush with death. For some of them, this joy would soon be interrupted.
Even after being declared Ebola-free, reports of fresh infections continue to be recorded. Though Ebola flare-ups are often quickly contained, blame befalls survivors who are thought to still be carrying the deadly virus. Experts believe that the virus can be transmitted sexually many months after a person is declared Ebola-free, creating a stigma around the virus and any Ebola victims.
William Karesh, an emerging-disease specialist with EcoHealth Alliance and an adviser to the World Health Organization in Liberia, says that lack of knowledge has greatly propelled the outbreak. He also warns that today an Ebola virus outbreak could appear anywhere in the world thanks to advanced international travel capacities, advising every country to take precautionary measures.
Ebola Virus Facts:
- The virus was discovered in 1976 in Central Africa
- It was transmitted to humans from animals and now spreads via human to human transmission
- There is no proven and licensed treatment for the Ebola virus
- 50% of all Ebola cases are fatal
- The 2014 outbreak left 11,000 people dead and 29,000 others infected, causing global panic
- New cases are still being reported to date, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- Symptoms of ebola include: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal (stomach) pain.
- There is no approved ebola vaccine yet, but many are in development and trials show promising results.
Today, locals are still trying to rebuild their lives. Reginald Kahweh founded a health center to help improve the status of the health infrastructure in Liberia. She lost both of her parents to the Ebola virus. Kahweh says, “Everyone had to step up to create a better society…this place was formed to remember those who died.”