News / Health

    Guinea's First Ebola Survivors Return to Family, Stigma Remains

    Rose Komono poses for a picture at a health clinic after overcoming the Ebola virus, in Gueckedou, Guinea, April 3, 2014.
    Rose Komono poses for a picture at a health clinic after overcoming the Ebola virus, in Gueckedou, Guinea, April 3, 2014.
    Reuters
    Hiccups, say doctors in this remote corner of Guinea, are the final tell-tale sign of infection by the Ebola virus that has killed more than 100 people since an outbreak began this year. Then come profuse bleeding, circulatory shock and death.

    But for Rose Komano, the hiccups never came. On Saturday, the 18-year-old mother of three became the first victim to have beaten the disease in the region of Gueckedou, epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in this impoverished West African nation.

    In total, 98 people are thought to have died from the disease in Guinea and 10 more in neighboring Liberia, according to aid workers and government officials.

    A market town of 220,000 people near the Liberia and Sierra Leone borders, Gueckedou's makeshift clinic is on the front line of Guinea's battle to contain its first outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever, normally found in Central Africa.

    Medecins sans FrontiEeres [MSF] - also known as Doctors Without Borders - a medical charity working to contain the virus, has set up two tin-roofed tents in the courtyard of the local health center. One is for suspected Ebola cases and the other is for confirmed cases.

    Now, to the delight of the overworked medical staff, they are building a third tent - for survivors.

    “When I first saw the medical staff around me in yellow and black, I was scared. I thought I was going to die,” said Komano, who buried her mother and grandmother days earlier after they died from the disease.

    “I didn't believe I would recover my health again. I was scared that I would orphan my children - like my mother did me - but now I can hold them in my arms again,” she said.

    Eight people have now recovered from the Ebola virus, according to medical tests. The virulent Zaire strain of the disease in Guinea has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.

    Lucky genes and intensive medical care helped Komano become one of the handful to escape death. Other patients were cleared to go home from the Donko hospital in Conakry last week in what the World Health Organization (WHO) dubbed “Lazarus” cases - after the Biblical figure restored to life by Jesus.

    Komano's 12-year-old niece and her sister also are recovering as the levels of virus in their blood fall.

    But for this family, living in a remote part of Guinea where traditional beliefs are held in high regard, the real battle may have only just begun.

    Chocolate, Nescafe and raw onions

    In past outbreaks, the sick were abandoned by their families or just dropped off at the isolation wards. If you survived, nobody would talk to you or touch you, said Ella Watson-Stryker, in charge of health promotion for MSF in Gueckedou.

    “Ebola disease transmission is not understood at a biological level in remote villages across Africa where people believe in witchcraft and traditional medicine,” she said.

    “It's sad because people really do want some sort of magic potion or cure but unfortunately all we can tell them to do is wash their hands,” Watson-Stryker said.

    SMS messages circulating in the country claimed that a Guinean medical researcher in Senegal has found the cure for Ebola - hot chocolate, Nescafe, milk, sugar and raw onions taken once a day for three days. In nearby Macenta, an angry mob attacked an MSF clinic, accusing the organization of bringing the deadly virus to their town, forcing it to shut down.

    The MSF team has been helping to educate people on how the disease spreads and how it can be prevented. The team is starting to reintegrate patients who have survived the virus.

    “We try to make sure that everyone understands once someone is no longer sick, they really cannot continue to spread the disease,” said Watson-Stryker, noting fewer people were asking their staff about witchcraft than at the start of the outbreak.

    For Komano, the initial signs are good. When she returns to her village, her family and friends cheer loudly and come out to hug her, a considerable leap of faith in a country where many people are now too afraid to shake hands.

    “I feel much better and I'm ready to go home. There's laundry to be done and I need to clean the house,” she said.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    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 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 Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    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.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora