In West Africa, Officials Target Ignorance And Fear Over Ebola
There’s growing concern in West Africa about the spread of the Ebola virus that has killed hundreds of people. Health ministers have formed a regional response, but fear and a lack of knowledge about Ebola threaten their efforts.
Liberian musicians are joining the campaign, taking to song to educate people about the Ebola virus. Their tune is called "Ebola in Town," and warns people to beware of close contact with those who fall ill. The song warns, “Don’t touch your friend.”
Since the outbreak was first detected in Guinea in February, the U.N.’s World Health Organization has reported more than 500 deaths there as well as neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Almost 850 cases have been recorded to date.
Ebola is highly contagious through contact with bodily fluids like blood, vomit or saliva. And it’s generally fatal. But there is a chance for survival if infected people can get medical attention.
West African government health officials have agreed to a coordinated strategy, aware that a contagious disease will cross borders as people travel for commerce or work. But their effort is hampered by fear and ignorance about the disease.
For example, families sometimes hide relatives with Ebola rather than take them for treatment. They fear the panic and ostracism that the disease may provoke from others nearby.
That’s why Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is warning her country that anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients will be prosecuted.
"Here, we’re talking about a deadly disease — a disease that can kill people. And we’re obliged to also protect the lives of people," Sirleaf said. "There’s a law that says they must do that. And if they don’t, then there are penalties."
Related: Ebola 101: The Facts Behind A Frightening Virus