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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora