Via The New York Times, a long, informative, and discouraging report datelined Kolo Bengou, Guinea: Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Physicians. Excerpt:
It was in this rural area, 400 miles over bad roads from Guinea’s capital, Conakry, where the outbreak was first spotted, and where it has hit hardest. More than 80 percent of those infected have died in this region, and Guinea has recorded more than twice as many deaths as the other countries.
In Koundony, more than one-eighth of the population, including the headman, are dead; many others have fled.
There is no known cure for the virus, which causes raging fever, vomiting, diarrhea and uncontrolled bleeding in about half the cases and up to 90 percent of the time, rapid death. Merely touching an infected person, or the body of a victim, is dangerous; coming into contact with blood, vomit or feces can be deadly.
Now the fear of aid workers, principally from Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, is helping to spread the disease, health officials say, creating a secondary crisis.
Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away.
This month, Doctors Without Borders classified 12 villages in Guinea as “red,” meaning they might harbor Ebola but were inaccessible for safety reasons.
As recently as April, the epidemic seemed to be under control. But in the past two weeks, its center appeared to have shifted across the border to Sierra Leone, where most of the new dead were being recorded. The sick are being hidden and the dead buried, without any protection.
Last week, the Sierra Leone Health Ministry reported that its lead doctor fighting Ebola had contracted the disease, and the virus had spread to a fourth country, with a confirmed fatality in Nigeria. Over the weekend, an aid organization working in Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse, said that two Americans, a doctor who was treating Ebola patients and an aid worker on a case management team, had tested positive for the virus.
And the Liberian government said Sunday that one of its most high-profile doctors had died of Ebola, according to The Associated Press.
Back in Guinea, in the village of Wabengou, residents placed a tree in the road to block outsiders. They also attacked an official delegation from Conakry, rushing its cars, banging on the vehicles and brandishing machetes, according to Doctors Without Borders.
“We don’t want them in there at all,” said Wabengou’s chief, Marcel Dambadounou. “We don’t accept their presence at all. They are the transporters of the virus in these communities.”
He was surrounded by grim-looking men from Wabengou, standing at a crossroads on the way to his village; none of them demurred.
“We are absolutely afraid, and that’s why we are avoiding contact with everybody,” he said, “the whole world.”