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Traditional Healers Key to Stamping Out Ebola in Guinea


Guinea is the last country in West Africa where people are still getting sick from Ebola, and health authorities are rallying traditional healers to help in the fight against the disease.

Mory Kourouma says he will cure what ails you from the van he parks along a busy roadside in Guinea’s capital Conakry. He offers traditional medicines to treat common ailments, even if the ailment is fever, one of the first symptoms of the Ebola virus.

"For those who are complaining of having fever, and they come to my place, what we normally give them is this one and that one over there in the bottle," Kourouma said.

Ebola outbreak

Guinea was the first country in West Africa in which Ebola broke out, and the last country in the region where people are still getting the virus.

The virus has killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in Guinea and in nearby Sierra Leone and Liberia.

While its neighbors have managed to get rid of the disease, two new Ebola cases were reported last week in Guinea.

After the virus broke out in 2013, Dr. Sakoba Keita, the national coordinator of Guinea’s fight against Ebola, said the government realized if it was going to beat the disease, it needed to get traditional healers on board.

"More of them had already died because of their treating of Ebola cases. Mainstream science doesn't support that traditional healers can, as far as I know, treat Ebola. So we met with the traditional healers, and we trained around 1,500 of them in measures of prevention and detection in Ebola cases," Keita said.

Weren't prepared

Mamady Nabe, president of Guinea's Union of Traditional Healers, said before the government intervened, most traditional doctors did not have the equipment to protect themselves from a disease that is transmitted through infected bodily fluids.

"Before we were sensitized, we didn't have the hygiene kits, we didn't have infrared thermometers, we didn't have gloves," Nabe said.

Thanks to the sensitization efforts, this Ebola treatment center in Conakry is nearly empty. But as the recent cases show, the country still has much to do to defeat the disease entirely.

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