Via TheGlobalDispatch.com, a rehash of the Ghana News Agency report: Suspected Ebola case investigated in Ghana. It has a few more details, but it got me thinking about the questions raised by the case.
As I'm rapidly coming to understand, West Africa is a big place.Getting from one country to another can be a big deal. Assuming that the 12-year-old girl was with her Ghanaian family in Mali for whatever reason, she would have had two real options for getting home: driving or flying.
Google Maps, when I asked it for directions on getting from Bamako in Mali to Accra in Ghana, told me the flight time is 3:30. By road, the distance is 1,531 km (951 miles), and Google thinks 21 hours would be needed to cover it—at an average speed of 73 km/hr (45 mph).
If I were the father of a very sick 12-year-old (and I once was), I would choose the closest possible medical service, however inadequate, rather than spend time in transit. Let's suppose this child's family thought otherwise.
But how could such a sick kid get through even the most cursory airport security, especially in a region that's been terrified for a couple of weeks about people with high fevers and bleeding issues? Could the child have even survived a two-day trip home by car or truck? And how would the family have got her across the border into Cote d'Ivoire from Mali, and then across the border into Ghana?
Those are just the logistical questions. I'd also want to know how a child was exposed to Ebola in Mali. Or was she exposed in Guinea and then transported to Mali? And when? Ebola can take up to 21 days to show itself; did the family return from a routine trip with a seemingly healthy daughter who suddenly fell ill in the suburbs of Accra?
Even if it does turn out that "Mali" means some little village an hour's drive out of Accra, this girl's case still raises questions. Apart from the mysterious Liberian hunter, virtually all current Ebola cases can be traced back to southeast Guinea. If Ebola coincidentally popped up in Ghana, roughly 1,200 kilometers from the southeast Guinean hot zone, that too would strain credulity.