An African Fair Trade Boutique in Washington, DC
Amani would like to ask for your prayers and thoughts on behalf of our Liberia center, as well as on behalf of the victims of the recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea.
The center of the outbreak has occurred across the Guinea/Liberia border, about 20 miles distant from the Amani Liberia center.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever which occurs primarily among humans and primates, but is spread by other animals, including livestock and fruit bats. Alarmingly, it has a fatality rate of up to 90% and has no known vaccine or cure. This is the first outbreak of the disease in Guinea, and is thought to have spread through eating bushmeat (wild animals), including smoked bat and spicy bat soup, a traditional food of the area. The Guinean government has banned the eating of bats in hopes of stemming the spread of the disease.
Although there have not been any confirmed cases of Ebola originating outside of Guinea during this incident, the health ministry of bordering Sierra Leone is investigating two suspected cases, as well as deaths in Liberia from victims who crossed the border for treatment. An alternative report says that the deceased were Liberians who had visited Guinea to attend a funeral. Strong social ties with the affected area and concern about porous borders have prompted fears that the outbreak will spread further.
Ebola’s high fatality rate is a large part of what makes it an intensely frightening disease, but also prevents it from spreading as rapidly as other viruses, including HIV. Volunteers, including Doctors Without Borders and government workers, are working to contain the disease with quarantine and disinfectant measures, as well as to treat those affected. Patients are hospitalized in intensive care and may receive medications to cope with shock as well as transfusions of fresh blood to combat internal and external bleeding. The primary danger from Ebola, however, is less shock or bleeding but instead widespread infection throughout the body, which then beings to shut down.
Although previous outbreaks of Ebola have inspired apocalyptic disaster movies such as Outbreak (1995), what is happening in Guinea is neither an adventure nor apocalyptic. There have been just 2200 cases of Ebola since its discovery in the 1970s, and the outbreak is unlikely to impact travelers or anyone very far outside the quarantined areas (although bordering regions are still justifiably concerned). Diseases which have proven far more deadly in West Africa include malaria and tuberculosis–diseases which have been nearly eradicated in America and Europe, but remain dangers in nations who are still developing their health infrastructure and often include populations too poor to afford preventative medical care and vaccines. Health is a fundamental human right, and one that is often denied to the poor and exacerbates developmental problems. Protecting and promoting health is a key part of human empowerment.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is working in the affected areas to contain and treat patients with the disease. You can support the work of MSF by donating here.