The Price of Deception

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The deadly Ebola virus, which has killed over 3000 people in West Africa, with half that number in Liberia alone, has reached the United States of America.  It was carried there by a Liberian citizen, who left here on Friday, September 19, on Brussels Airlines.

Thomas Eric Duncan, a former employee of Fed Ex Liberia, and a resident of the 72nd Community on SKD Boulevard, Paynesville, arrived in Dallas, Texas on September 20.  He had successfully undergone thorough testing at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), which detected no sign of Ebola on this passenger.

But according to the New York Times, which traced Duncan’s contacts five days prior to his departure, he had come into contact with two persons infected with the virus—the pregnant daughter of his landlord and her brother.  The woman took ill and asked Duncan to take her to and from the hospital, accompanied by her brother.  She was said to have vomited and bled profusely en route and died the following day.  The brother also died a day later.

The most unfortunate thing about this episode is Mr. Duncan’s failure to level with the screening team at RIA.  Having seen the woman vomiting, and knowing that she had died before he left the country, he must have suspected or reckoned that he had had contact with a possible Ebola patient.  For pregnant women do indeed vomit, but this never takes their lives.  And then the bleeding?  That should have been enough for Duncan to put 2 and 2 together and suspected the cause of the woman’s illness.  Then her death, followed by her brother’s should surely have driven him immediately to a testing center to do an Ebola check, and even go on to quarantine himself.

This is precisely why we felt compelled on Monday this week to write the editorial on two senior officials of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH), who quarantined themselves immediately after contacting persons whom these officials thought may have been infected with the virus.   The first subject of our editorial was Dr. Bernice Dahn, who is Chief Medical Officer of Liberia.  Her Special Assistant, the late Rev. Napoleon Brathwaite, fell ill and she proceeded to his home to visit with him.  When his sickness worsened, and it looked as though he might have been infected with the virus, Dr. Dahn, exercising—and demonstrating, too,—the highest degree of personal and professional integrity, immediately quarantined herself.  Her quarantine ends next Thursday. 

The second MOH official we editorialized was Madam Yah Martor Zolia, Deputy Minister for Planning and Development.  She had gone to her native Nimba County to assist the Ebola health team there.    When it was time for her to return, she was given a driver who, as an ambulance driver, had been in direct contact with Ebola patients.  But no one told her this, and she had absolutely no way of knowing it.  She drove nearly 200 miles with the driver to Monrovia, and even shared her cell phone with him a number of times.    But at several checkpoints he showed signs of very high fever, and at one point the nurses had to pour cold water on him.  When they got to Monrovia, she gave him money to find his way to the doctor.  The driver died the following day!

In today’s edition, we publish her story entitled, “How God Saved Me from Ebola”.

What great and blessed difference it would make if all of us behaved like these two exemplary and outstanding Liberian women!  They did not wait for their boss, Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale, to tell them what to do.  Dr. Dahn is a physician and Madam Zolia a molecular biogolist.  So both of them are scientists who already KNEW what to do—and followed their consciences.

We submit that Mr. Duncan should have acted in the exact same manner the minute he heard that his pregnant passenger had died.  Instead, he boarded a plane bound for Texas in the USA, and into a home with children and others.

It is our fervent prayer that by God’s grace, NO ONE has been or will be infected by Duncan, and that he himself will live to tell the story about what really happened and why.

John Donne was right: Indeed “No man is an island” and the world IS a global village.  We are each responsible for our own and one another’s safety against our common enemy, Ebola.

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