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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs