Ebola’s SA connection
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.