News / Africa

Dangers High for Health Workers on Ebola Front Lines

Volunteers lower a corpse, which is prepared with safe burial practices to ensure it does not pose a health risk to others and stop the chain of person-to-person transmission of Ebola, into a grave in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, July 18, 2014.
Volunteers lower a corpse, which is prepared with safe burial practices to ensure it does not pose a health risk to others and stop the chain of person-to-person transmission of Ebola, into a grave in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, July 18, 2014.
Anne Look

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 900 people across four countries. That includes dozens of health workers who caught the disease, 32 in Liberia alone. Many of that country’s health clinics and hospitals have shut down as nurses and doctors refuse to risk being exposed.

Dr. Melvin Korkor said he has a pretty good idea how he got Ebola, though it’s impossible to know for sure.  

A woman came into his facility, Phebe hospital in Bong County in central Liberia. The patient had no fever, but she was vomiting.

“She said she was from Bangha instead of Lofa, but the next day I was a little bit suspicious.  I said 'Well, I hope you are not from Lofa because there is every indication that you are suspect.'”

Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, Aug. 7, 2014Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, Aug. 7, 2014
x
Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, Aug. 7, 2014
Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, Aug. 7, 2014

They later found out the woman lied. She had come from Lofa, an area at the Sierra Leone and Guinea borders that is at the center of this regional Ebola outbreak.

Five nurses from Korkor’s hospital have since died of Ebola. When he tested positive, he was taken to Monrovia and then to Lofa to an isolation ward.

“One of the patients had just died. They prepared the bed and I went in… my heart became hardened, and I said to myself I was going to make it and I said to my wife 'bring me my Bible' and that is that, I’m going to go by,” said Korkor.

 

Pure survival

He forced himself to eat even though he did not want food. It was lonely. He tried to stay calm. He saw other patients growing despondent, hopeless and passing away.

He survived.

“It was like being reborn,” he said.

His hospital is now closed while health workers get trained on Ebola.

The virus is transmitted through close contact with an Ebola patient's bodily fluids. People caring for the sick are thus at especially high risk.

Many health workers in Liberia don’t have the necessary protective gear -- the masks, the gowns, the eyewear.

As a result, health centers and hospitals around Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, are shutting their doors. The risk that any patient coming in the doors could have Ebola is simply too great.

Lacking supplies

Nurse Timothy Walker said his clinic didn’t even have gloves.

“Our friends are dying. On a very serious note, we don’t want to die like a dog," said Walker. "[If] the government cannot provide protective gear, sorry, we are not coming to work. We are afraid.”

Local residents standing outside the shuttered clinic say they are in an impossible situation.

“Because if we sick, we cannot go to native doctor," said Reanking Logan. "We’re not familiar with native doctor. We’ve got to go to the clinic and all clinics are closed down. Pregnant women they need to go to clinic and they need medical facility. They don’t have it. So where we are today, we don’t know.”

Culture of fear

Health workers who continue to work say they are afraid and that people outside the clinic are afraid of them.

Physician’s assistant McFarland Kerkulah said, “Whenever you are in uniform, people will shy away from you on grounds that you have been infected with the Ebola virus. They don’t want to see you. They don’t want to ride in any car you are getting in.”

The dozens of health workers killed during this Ebola outbreak include some who have had access to protective gear. Public health experts say errors are happening. This is the first time most West African doctors and nurses have dealt with Ebola, and people are undertrained and overworked.

On Wednesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency. She said not only does the country have more than 500 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola, but people are now also at risk of dying from treatable illnesses common during the rainy season, like malaria and typhoid, for lack of medical care.

Meamwhile,

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated its emergency operation center at the highest level, in response to the world's worst Ebola outbreak.

CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden told a congressional hearing on Ebola Thursday that the centers will soon have 50 disease experts in West Africa at the center of the crisis. He said he is confident no major outbreak in the U.S. will happen.

 

Prince Collins reported from Monrovia for this story.

 

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Reality
August 07, 2014 11:09 PM
Why not burn the corpse

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid