Bear-faced en­thu­si­asm

Sierra Leone’s last known Ebola pa­tient leaves hos­pi­tal in joy­ful cer­e­mony

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST - BY ROD MAC JOHN­SON

Sierra Leone’s last known Ebola pa­tient was re­leased from hos­pi­tal Mon­day, rais­ing hopes the west African na­tion may fi­nally have beaten the dev­as­tat­ing epi­demic.

Pres­i­dent Ernest Bai Koroma hailed “the be­gin­ning of the end of Ebola in Sierra Leone” as Adama Sankoh, 34, was re­leased from hos­pi­tal in Mak­eni, the coun­try’s third-largest city, in a fes­tive cer­e­mony.

With no new cases re­ported in two weeks, Sierra Leone joins neigh­bor­ing Liberia in the count­down to be­ing de­clared Ebo­lafree, with Guinea the only coun­try where peo­ple are still fall­ing sick with the deadly trop­i­cal fever.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says a coun­try can be de­clared Ebola-free 42 days af­ter the last con­firmed case has tested neg­a­tive twice for the virus.

The re­lease of the cured pa­tient was cel­e­brated by crowds danc­ing in the streets, beat­ing drums, cars honk­ing their horns and ra­dio and tele­vi­sion sta­tions play­ing the na­tional an­them.

Sankoh said she would “from now on be the num­ber one mes­sen­ger to sen­si­tize peo­ple that although Ebola is on the run, vig­i­lance should be the watch­word.”

She ap­pealed to “gov­ern­ment not to for­get all Ebola sur­vivors as most of us are now very vul­ner­a­ble in terms of eco­nomic well­be­ing.”

Na­tional Ebola Re­sponse Cen­tre co­or­di­na­tor Steven Gaoja said the pa­tient’s dis­charge from hos­pi­tal “rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in the fight against Ebola and the count­down to­wards a re­silient zero.”

Ac­cord­ing to the health min­istry, only 14 peo­ple are now in

quar­an­tine na­tion­wide.

‘False sense of se­cu­rity’

Since first emerg­ing in De­cem­ber 2013, the worst out­break of Ebola in history has in­fected nearly 28,000 peo­ple and left some 11,300 dead — mostly across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The dis­ease can cause fever, vom­it­ing, di­ar­rhea, kid­ney and liver fail­ure, and in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal bleed­ing. There is cur­rently no li­censed cure or treat­ment.

Sierra Leone had its first case in May 2015 af­ter a woman tested pos­i­tive on her re­turn home from a fu­neral in Guinea. Some 4,000 peo­ple have since died in the coun­try.

Ebola has brought the three na­tions to their knees, dev­as­tat­ing their economies to the back­drop of apoc­a­lyp­tic scenes as in­fec­tious bod­ies at times lay in the streets and en­tire com­mu­ni­ties were quar­an­tined.

The WHO has said that if cur­rent ef­forts to root out new cases are kept up, the epi­demic could be over by the end of the year.

But the or­ga­ni­za­tion has warned against a “false sense of se­cu­rity” as even a sin­gle un­de­tected case could ig­nite a ma­jor flare-up.

Liberia was de­clared Ebola-free in May, but six new cases cropped up a month later, all of whom have now been cleared.

Guinea, the epi­cen­ter of the out­break, has strug­gled the most to bring the epi­demic un­der con­trol, and has bat­tled dis­trust and sus­pi­cion from lo­cals who be­lieve the dis­ease is a “white con­spir­acy.”

The WHO also be­lieves the num­bers of cases and deaths have been vastly un­der­es­ti­mated due to fam­i­lies hid­ing the sick­ness and bury­ing rel­a­tives be­fore they can be tested.

Closer than ever to be­ing de­clared Ebola- free, the af­fected coun­tries are tak­ing grim stock of the dev­as­ta­tion wrought on their economies as key min­ing and agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties ground to a halt.

Sierra Leone said Satur­day that gold ex­ports had plunged by twothirds and diamond ex­ports nearly halved in the first half of 2015. The coun­try’s econ­omy was boom­ing with 11 per­cent growth in 2013 but is ex­pected to con­tract by two per­cent this year, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank.

The out­break has also killed some 500 health work­ers in coun­tries whose health sys­tems were al­ready in dire straits, bat­tling high ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity and rife dis­eases like malaria.

The sur­vivors are mourn­ing en­tire com­mu­ni­ties wiped out while some 13,000 strug­gle with longterm com­pli­ca­tions such as se­vere joint pains and vis­ual im­pair­ments that can lead to blind­ness.

AFP

This U.S. Coast Guard photo ob­tained on Mon­day, Aug. 24, shows a po­lar bear ob­served off Coast Guard Cut­ter Healy’s stern on Sun­day, Aug. 23 while the cut­ter is in the Arc­tic Ocean in sup­port of Geo­traces. Geo­traces is Healy’s sec­ond science mis­sion of the sum­mer and is an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to study the dis­tri­bu­tion of trace el­e­ments in the world’s oceans.

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