Via The Washington Post, a long, discouraging report: It was already the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Now it’s moving into Africa’s cities. Excerpt:
Outside the Ebola facility in Lakka, a single Sierra Leonean soldier stood guard, rifle slung over his shoulder. Balla Conteh, 35, did not like his new posting. His younger sister is being treated for Ebola in Kailahun. His 4-month-old niece died of the disease.
“It is real. It is very real. And it is killing people,” Conteh said. “It’s a very, very scary disease.”
That fear might explain how the young boy suffering from Ebola was admitted to Ola During Children’s Hospital.
The boy showed up at the hospital with his father, doctors recall. The child had a fever. He was vomiting and had diarrhea. These were textbook signs of Ebola. But 80 percent of pediatric patients here have similar complaints, usually pointing to malaria or a severe stomach bug, doctors say. They further screened the boy for the virus by asking his father some questions. Any travels? Any funerals? No, no, he said.
The boy was taken to a general ward inside the cramped hospital, which overlooks Destruction Bay on the city’s east end. The hospital’s open windows were covered by sheets to block out the sun and the smell of burning trash. A sign painted in red by the hospital entrance read, “Water from the well in the hospital compound is unsafe for drinking.”
Two days later, the boy’s gums started to bleed. He was transferred to the hospital’s isolation ward. A day later, his lab tests came back. He had Ebola. Doctors delivered the news to the boy’s stepmother and asked again about his travels. The stepmother said the boy had attended his grandmother’s funeral in the provinces.
The father had lied to us, said Sara Hommel, a German pediatrician with a foreign aid group, clearly upset.
She couldn’t understand it. Other doctors, too, have complained about patients not being forthcoming about possible exposure to Ebola. But facing a disease with no cure, perhaps the father and others were afraid to admit the truth.
The hospital had remained closed for several days as the remaining hospital staff members demanded to be taught the infection-control measures considered essential to guarding against this unforgiving virus.
“We are not going to rush back to work,” a hospital administrator said. “We want to be protected.”
The wait dragged on. Hommel and another German doctor, Noa Freudenthal, wondered how many cases of malaria or typhoid were going untreated. Ola During once had been filled with 250 patients. Where were these sick children now? Recently, a charity hospital tried to deliver a 2-year-old child suffering from cerebral malaria to the children’s hospital but was turned away. The gates were closed.