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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora