Unmasking the serial killer

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Monrovia- The epidemic Ebola is the most venomous of viruses often disguising itself as malaria, typhoid, flu, diarrhea, headache or a combination of the above or even more.

Ebola has defied conventional medical protocols and brought to knees the healthcare systems of some of the countries where the epidemic is rife. It has exposed the lapses in the healthcare protocols of even some of the most advanced countries- case of the Texas nurses that treated Thomas Eric Duncan.

However, Ebola comes with a strong but sobering message-that countries should focus energies on preventive healthcare.  Public healthcare systems should put their lenses on population health. Ebola has proven that the general well being of a population supersedes individual healthcare. Those at the lower end of the economic ladder who cannot afford basic healthcare coverage are often left unnoticed.

Ebola is a serial killer that is indiscriminate in selecting victims. No one is shielded from the killer virus. Perhaps, if more efforts are concerted towards population health and preventive healthcare, there might be a decrease in the rise of Ebola and other infectious diseases. Similarly, diseases that tend to affect poorer countries would not be subjected to neglect but rather seen as a potential global health epidemic and would require solid attention.

Global health bodies like the World Health Organization; the US Centers for Disease Control should align their efforts with frontline organizations like the Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse. Ebola is a serial killer that tears down everything in its path from the economy, socialization, cultural practices, education, and also poses a security threat.  In Liberia, one of the countries at the epicenter of the epidemic, mid-term elections for the senate are forced to be postponed because of fear of assembly of a huge number of people.

Another vital lesson that Ebola has taught African governments is the need to prioritize the general healthcare of its citizens. Most public officials in Africa prefer medical services abroad, leaving their healthcare systems at home in shambles. The weak and poor are left with no choice but to attend those horrible facilities. This trend has to stop. There is no safe haven for Ebola. Healthcare systems of African governments should be upgraded and public monies directed at research to discover treatments/vaccines for such epidemics.

In Liberia, where there are scores of persons reported to have survived the virus, such survivors should be sampled and their blood plasma tested for possible antidotes to the virus. In a recent report, Dr. Kent Brantly of the Samaritan’s purse relief who had survived the virus is reported to have offered his blood plasma to nurses in Texas. Laudable move! Perhaps Liberia has a chunk load for such experiments.

It is also reported in Liberia of a medical doctor who had been treating his patients with antiretroviral drugs and recorded success stories. There is no yet known cure for the virus, thus experiments should not be dismissed but subjected to further research. Donors should direct funding to research to ensure donations are not just directed at paying experts but to find a remedy. Ebola has presented an opportunity to research and find treatments for other potentially dangerous infectious diseases and STD’s.

Governments in Africa, especially in the region where the epidemic is raging, need to implement robust surveillance, information sharing, effective contact tracing, simple information dissemination and sending clear messages. Finger pointing and the blame game is naïve. As the virus has shown, it has the ability to travel, undetected, evading radars and screenings until it gets set to strike. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as of October 24, there are total cases of 10141, Laboratory confirmed cases of 5692 and total deaths of 4922. This is scary.

Healthcare systems should encourage community Health Workers (CHWs) through training and providing better incentives and insurance.  Trainings will unravel new techniques on unmasking the killer earlier and applying universal precautionary procedures.

Governments should improve weak infrastructures like roads to enable ambulances to reach even the remotest parts of the countries to transport the sick. The fear of health workers potentially getting Ebola should not subject other patients to die of curable causes because healthcare workers are either poorly trained; incompetent, or lack insurance.

The alarm is up and the serial killer is out there, staring at a panicked population, planning a next strike. Identifying the killer is a step in winning the war.

While the war on Malaria and AIDS is yet to be won by Africa, she is confronted with an even deadlier Serial Killer that attacks on all fronts. She cannot fight them alone. The sooner the rest of the world realizes this, we’re all safe.

 

About the Author:

Lekpele Nyamalon lives in Monrovia, Liberia and can be reached at [email protected]

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