Ebola And The Case Of The Imam From Guinea

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Ebola Frontline soldiers

[Publisher's Commentary: Resisting Ebola]

The Wall Street Journal has published a chilling article about the death on Tuesday of a nurse in Mali from Ebola -- the nurse had treated an Islamic Imam who traveled there from Guinea and who died of Ebola soon after his arrival in October.

Here is why the Ebola story from Mali is very troubling.

In addition to the nurse, scores of other people, possibly several dozens, may have come in contact with the Imam including those who bathed his body in the traditional manner in preparation for his burial.

This means that all those who touched the Imam's diseased body could be at risk. The Imam's body was transported back to Guinea for burial, meaning mourners, unaware that he died from Ebola, could have been exposed.

This also means that those who came in contact with him on the way back to Guinea, and after the body arrived there can become victims.

In Mali the Imam was reportedly treated for "kidney failure" not Ebola and that's why the nurse and others who treated him may not have taken precautions.

There are also conflicting reports.

According to the Journal's report, Mali authorities say protocol was followed and that the Imam's temperature was taken at the border when he crossed the from neighboring Guinea on October 25 and that he had no fever at the time.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) says the Imam had already been sick for at least a week when he entered Mali and that by the time he arrived in the capital of Bamako he was so ill that he could not speak. He died two days later.

"The incident risks setting off a chain of transmission that will be difficult to trace, in what is the sixth West African country to be s tricken by Ebola," notes The Wall Street Journal.

Nigeria and Senegal contained the disease. The most affected countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Mali deserves all the help it needs to contain the disease.

Was the Imam allowed into the country without being tested, or allowed entry even when he appeared sick, because religious leaders like him are respected and even revered?

Black Star News writer Nvasekie Konneh in a column "Eye-Witness To Ebola: How Public Denial Helped Spread of Disease In Liberia" on September 14, after visiting his native Liberia, reported on the problems that religion and culture presented -- slowing the fight against Ebola in the early stages.

If the authorities at the border crossing ignored clear symptoms that the Imam was sick, and allowed him to potentially infect scores other, including the Malian nurse who died after being involved in treating him, this would be unconscionable neglect and the officials must be held liable.

Ebola does not spare any one, regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion or status in life.

Those who have survived did so because of superior treatment as in the case of those who received care in American hospitals. The sole person who died in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan on October 8, was a victim of neglect --  he was allowed to go home September 25 before he was treated too late starting September 28. Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas knew it was liable, basically letting Duncan die because he was Black, and has settled with his family.

In the case of the Imam from Guinea, he may have infected several people on his way to Mali as well.

Now the authorities in Mali, a country which so far had been spared the disease, must scramble to trace all those who have been in contact with the Imam in the past several weeks, and, in turn, the people whom they have been in contact with.

The potential permutations make this a challenging operation.

Meanwhile the WHO reports that there have been 14,098 cases and 5.160 deaths from Ebola. The cases and deaths could be as many as four times more, the organization says, since many cases are not reported.

The official breakdown are as follows: Liberia 6,822 cases and 2,836 deaths; Sierra Leone 5,368 cases and 1,169 deaths; and, Guinea 1,878 cases and 1,142 deaths.

If they aren't already, the ministers of Health from West African countries must start meeting on a regular basis, perhaps every week, to help coordinate the fight against Ebola and to regularly compare notes. No prevention and containment protocol must be ignored regardless of the status of a potential or actual victim.

The Nigerian health authorities who did an excellent job in containing the disease and eliminating it in their country must reach out and help contain the disease in Mali because it could potentially threaten the entire West African region if Mali becomes another hot zone.

In this fight, all with some knowledge must be recruited, including writers such as Nvasekie Konneh, who was prescient when he observed the challenges tradition  and religion could present in the fight against Ebola.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must offer maximum assistance with the Nigerians taking the lead in Mali.



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