Ebola’s SA con­nec­tion

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ODAY marks ex­actly 18 years since Joburg health worker Mar­i­lyn La­hana, the first per­son to con­tract the Ebola virus in South Africa, died. She had been crit­i­cal for more than a week due to mul­ti­ple or­gan dys­func­tion re­sult­ing from the in­fec­tion.

La­hana, wife of Spring­bok bowls player Cyril La­hana, was a the­atre sis­ter at the Morn­ing­side Clinic. She con­tracted the vi­ral fever while help­ing to treat Dr Cle­ment Mam­bana, a doc­tor from Gabon who un­wit­tingly brought the Ebola virus into South Africa. Mam­bana was flown into the coun­try to be treated for sus­pected vi­ral hep­ati­tis – blood sam­ples later re­vealed his fever had been brought on by the virus.

The deadly virus has re­turned with a vengeance, killing thou­sands as it con­tin­ues to spread across West Africa, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The first fa­tal­ity of the cur­rent epi­demic is be­lieved to be 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno, who per­ished in De­cem­ber last year in the vil­lage of Melian­dou in Guinea.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion says since then at least 5 420 peo­ple have died of Ebola across eight coun­tries out of a to­tal 15 145 cases of in­fec­tion – a 35.8 per­cent fa­tal­ity rate.

Like Sis­ter La­hana, other med­i­cal work­ers have paid a heavy toll in this lat­est out­break of the epi­demic, the worst on record. Around the globe, about 400 health-care staff have con­tracted the Ebola virus, and more than 230 have died.

Last week alone saw two more doc­tors dy­ing of Ebola – one in Mali who treated an in­fected pa­tient, and a sur­geon who con­tracted Ebola while work­ing in Sierra Leone and died while be­ing treated in a hos­pi­tal in Ne­braska in the US.

Surely Sis­ter La­hana and other health work­ers did not die in vain and hu­man­ity will tri­umph over this per­ni­cious virus.

T

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