Wednesday, October 29, 2014


As everyone now knows, Mali has had its first case of Ebola. A two year old girl died in Kayes last Friday, a day after having been admitted to hospital. She had come from Guinea, and had travelled for a thousand kilometres on public transport with her grandmother while she was showing symptoms, including heavy bleeding from her nose. It appears that the grandmother had hidden her from the border authorities as she was entering Mali travelling on a lorry. She had had a short sojourn in Bamako, in the heavily populated area of Bagadadji, at the heart of Bamako, before continuing in a public bus to Kayes, where she was finally admitted to hospital  where she died the following day, having at first shown signs of recovery which were unfortunately unfounded.

The WHO is treating this as a very serious issue because of the fact that she travelled on public transport through large areas of Mali while she was contagious. My Keita and several other Malians I have spoken to feel that if this grandmother is lucky enough to survive (unlikely since she cared for the highly contagious toddler for several days)  she should be shot for High Treason. I am afraid that I can almost sympathize with that sentiment...’It doesn’t matter how poor and uneducated, she knew what she was doing. Noone in Mali is unaware of the risks involved, and everyone has been informed for months about how to behave to avoid contagion’, fumes Keita. ‘Not only that, but had she handed the girl in at the border, for instance, instead of subjecting the poor child to the hardship of the road, she may have survived! ‘

 Well, it is done now.

All we have to do is to wait. The incubation period is between 2 and 21 days. Noone of the over 80 people who have been traced and who are kept in quarantine in Bamako and Kayes have so far developed any symptoms.

‘I suppose it's the filmic insidious nature of it that makes the public flesh creep’ wrote David in his comment to last week’s blog post, putting his finger on the nature of this beast: we don’t know exactly when and how and if the contagion will spread, and we can’t see the enemy who is creeping about silently and invisibly doing his deadly task while everything is seemingly normal.

So far the Malian health authorities have acted fast and thoroughly to contain the situation.  I am in Bamako for a week and I notice that measures are also put in place by the private sector to safeguard against the spread of the disease: last night I went to ‘The Sleeping Camel’, that favourite Bamako watering hole, and at the entrance a member of staff squirted anti bacterial liquid onto my hands before allowing me entry.  Many other hotels and restaurants are taking this and other safety precautions.

And now we just wait...


Blogger Susan Scheid said...

It's hard to know what to say. In a way, it is how some people handle this that is the more worrisome thing, as this example sadly shows. You and all around you are in my thoughts.

7:24 PM  
Blogger David said...

Until it goes wrong, it goes well is all one can say - as in life generally, so in this situation. We can't afford to let the fear grip us (a comedian did a wonderful stitch-together of the very different American - hysterical - and British - phlegmatic and practical - responses). Seems like Mali is generally doing all the simple things right. Hard to blame the unfortunate grandmother, and yet...

11:50 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Actually David, I DO blame the grandmother. Everyone is seemingly being so kind and understanding (toubabs only, I hasten to add!)but in my mind there is really no excuse and what she did was criminal negligence. And thank you Susan, it is good to know you and others are thinking of us!

3:33 PM  

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