Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebola psychosis deepening

I suppose we had better talk Ebola again, to get it over and done with. The entire world seems to be obsessed by this disease, and on every news site  I look no one seems to want to talk about anything else.
Now, don’t get me wrong: this is of course a very serious disease. It was billed to kill aroung 90% of its victims to start with but the latest figures show that it kills not quite  50% of its victims:
8,399 cases and 4,033 deaths since the epidemic started in the beginning of this year WHO announced last Wednesday. Yes, it is certainly a gruesome epidemic, and the international aid that is arriving is definitely needed and much appreciated in the worst hit areas.

BUT, nevertheless the disease needs to be put into perspective. My dear friend Ann has three children who are still going to school in Conakry, Guinea. She had no hesitation in going back to the capital of this ebola ridden country after her holiday in Belgium, and she is the best mother I know.  Virtually none of her toubab friends and acquaintances in Conakry have any problems about remaining in Guinea  either. The  fact is: if you don’t eat bush meat or get into physical contact with people who are sick, you are not going to get it.
The people in Conakry simply make sure they don’t touch anyone they don’t know. They wash their hands and they supervise their children at all times. There are hundreds of Medecins sans Frontiers and other health workers who have worked since the beginning of the epidemic who have not caught the virus. The very few that have caught it, and the unfortunate case of the nurse who contracted it in Spain (‘The First Case In Europe!’ gloat the gruesome headlines greedily, as if there were going to be hundreds and thousands following in her wake!) have simply not followed the rigorous rules of conduct demanded in the treatment of an Ebola patient.

The media circus about Ebola is way out of line. I know that I have a vested interest in playing it down, because I run a hotel in Mali and we have had several cancellations because of Ebola. We were hoping to slowly re-emerge after three years of deep crisis which included  the Jihadist occupation of the north and war in this country- (none of which ever touched Djenne in the slightest, by the way) and now we are the victims of Ebola without even having had ONE case in Mali. But if I thought this disease was really a seroius threat  here, I would have left, just as I am sure Ann would have done, for the safety of her children.
Rest assured dear Europeans, Americans and Australians etc. You are not at risk here. Please do not believe all the junk that the media is throwing at you. Tonight a ridiculous headline took pride of place and opened the evening news on France 24, my purveyor of international news. ‘Woman found NOT to have ebola’. A woman had arrived from Liberia and had fallen ill in Paris. Therefore she was put in quarantine, but found to suffer from a common cold I believe.

My old sparring partner Joe Penney from Reuters (see blog September 9, 2012  and in particular comments ...) is reporting on the difficulty of surveying the southern borders of Mali and Guinea in the artisanal gold mining areas, where people just cross the border avoiding the official border posts.  ( .) This is true and I don’t accuse him of sensationalism exactly.
But the border has been porous since the beginning of the epidemic in March. Why have there been no cases yet? And even if there was a case or a few of ebola in Mali, what is to say it will develop into an epidemic here? It did not in Nigeria, who only presented a few cases and then nothing for the last month or so, or Senegal where  case or two was declared  a couple of weeks ago, and then nothing else. The fact is, Malians in the border areas are very  alert to the danger of Ebola. The Malian health personnel I have spoken to here are quite optimistic as to the success of the Malian media’s  effort to highlight the danger: Malians are informed how to avoid contagion by hygiene measures; how to spot a suspect case and how to recognize the first symptoms, and if they do, to alert the authorities. I believe this is actually working.

Interestingly, when I went to mass at Bamako cathedral several weeks ago the priest told the congregation in the packed cathedral not to shake hand as is customary when wishing each other ‘Peace’ after the Lords prayer. These sorts of saftety measures and many others are put in place and adhered to in many contexts in Mali and elsewhere in West Africa, and this will help to ensure that the epidemic, however devastating, will begin to abate without the apocalyptic scenario envisaged by the international scaremongers of the press and media.


Blogger Susan Scheid said...

It's a relief to get a balanced account on this issue. I've given up on looking at the news more than an occasional sideways glance, as everything is sensationalized beyond belief. Many, many thanks for some simple facts and observations from "on the ground."

2:08 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you Susan! It is quite unbelievable really- after writing the blog I saw another news item from France 24: The French have set up an Ebola help line number!! This will be a great help, mainly for all those people terrified after reading and watching the news...

7:50 AM  
Blogger mary said...

How refreshing to have a balance on ebola and the news media hype but sadly papers don't sell and people don't watch the news for reassuring rational thought.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Laurent said...

Indeed thank you, even here in Canada the media are trying to out do themselves with alarmist headlines that make no sense at all. Even a neighbour of mine in our building told me to be careful because Ebola was everywhere in the city, really I told her where did you hear this, on the local news she told me. Poor dear, in Ottawa you are more likely to get hit by a car crossing the street.

10:03 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you Mary and Laurent, and that is hilarious Laurent! Although of course quite sad...

1:42 AM  
Blogger David said...

Likewise, always good to get your perspective and fascinating to learn of the basic precautions in Mali. Of course an invisible enemy is always going to spread terror and alarm, but further away, it seems; Mali is clearly being more rational. It all boils down to being clear and simple about the rules. I can imagine the panic in Sierra Leone, though.

6:44 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Indeed David, Malians are quite cool about it. I guess there is always a feeling here that calamity is just around the corner, and that that is our human condition...they have not closed their borders with Guinea, and that is so typically Malian: 'They are our brothers, we can't treat them like that!'says the always big hearted Keita, speaking for the nation. And this noble attitude has done them no harm so far...

2:13 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

Sophie, you're right the media is completely alarmist about Ebola.
Sorry I couldn't talk on the phone. I've been working until late for the last couple of days doing post production to meet the deadline in finishing the ad for the UK. I'll try to call you tomorrow evening:)
Lot's of Love, G xxx

9:47 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Mali's success in tracking down the ebola case made the New York Times here. I suspect not all the facts are correct, but it's good to see this positive coverage of Mali's handling of the case.

6:06 PM  

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