Already before the Ebola epidemic, the Liberian health stations lacked in the most urgent things. Now, they are completely on the ropes. Photo: Daniel vaon Moll/laif
Why the Ebola catastrophe has not yet been overcome
Turning point, gasp of relief, all clear. The words we currently hear in media reports on the Ebola subject are predominantly conveying a positive connotation. They are inciting the inclined reader to reason that and end has been put to this lethal epidemic and to forget about the exasperating subject Ebola.
Well, it’s true: The confirmed total of 22,000 infections is far under the fictive horror scenarios of 1.4 million cases of Ebola at the beginning of the new year. This is, without any doubt, a positive fact in the fight against the epidemic.
However, is a decrease in new infections already reason enough to gasp of relief? Is it a sufficient occasion to proclaim an optimistic turnaround in West Africa? The so far 9,000 death cases, as well as the fatal consequences of the epidemic tell us something different and are just saying: For the helpers and the concerned people there isn’t time to gasp of relief for a long time yet.
It is quite evident that Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries which have been hardest hit by Ebola, had already been struggling with problems before the outbreak of the epidemic. These problems have now increased. The wide holes already existing in their health systems are meanwhile quite impossible to close.
A big part of the medical staff has been infected themselves by treating Ebola patients, many of them have died. So how could a health system which has already been on the ropes before the epidemic continue working? Can it recover from this hard setback at all?
These are questions which concern the everyday medical work as well as the care for those who have survived Ebola. The consequences of the infection, what experts call the “post-Ebola-syndrome”, comprise joint pains, fatigue, hair loss and problems with the memory.
Moreover, there are psychic problems. Many of those who have survived only could watch helplessly how their children, their parents or their partners have lost their fight against the virus, suffering great pains. Panic attacks and depressions are the unsurprising consequences, which must now be treated together with the physical after-effects.
But even those, who have not been infected with Ebola, are often suffering from the consequences of the epidemic. Families who have lost their bread-earner, are faced with the question pure existence. Children deprived of their parents are struggling for life on the streets. Nobody wants to care for them because of an irrational fear of contamination. Even if they were lucky enough not to be infected, they are now suffering from a social stigmatization which could mean death for many of them.
And finally, there is the fact that under the current conditions a resurge of the epidemic is possible at any time. According to the treating doctors, a decreasing number of infections is no sufficient indicator for a rapid end of the epidemic. The estimated number of unreported cases is too high and the exact ways of transmission of the infection are still too unclear. One unlucky accident is enough and the invisible catastrophe Ebola will hit again with all its might.
Thus, despite the decreasing number of new infections there is no reason to gasp of relief or to think of an all clear, in this epidemic, the biggest Ebola outbreak of all times. Because even if there have been no new infections for 42 days and the outbreak can officially be declared as being stopped, the people in West Africa are being confronted with economic and social difficulties, which will follow them for years.
humedica supports the country Liberia, which has been hit most by Ebola, with directed aid supply deliveries. Face masks, protective clothes and disinfectants enable the medical staff to protect themselves of an infection and, in the same time permit the treatment of people suffering from other diseases.
These days, nobody can say how the epidemic will evolve. That’s why, once again, we must say: Breathe, gather your strength, continue helping!