Ebola instills terror in West African families
JOHANNESBURG — Even the word was chilling: Ebola. The virus stole into the girl’s house in her small eastern Guinea town, invisible as death, and swiftly killed her grandmother and great-aunt. There were dark rumors everywhere that Ebola was witchcraft.Soon her mother and aunt fell sick, too. Health workers with Doctors Without Borders came and talked to the family for a long time. Then they donned yellow heavy plastic suits, white plastic aprons, masks and bibs, and took 12-year-old Rose and her mother and aunt away in an ambulance.And everybody knew that when they took you away, you never came back.This is a time of terror in many West African communities as they face the world’s worst outbreak of one of the deadliest known diseases, easily spread through bodily fluids and difficult and dangerous to treat. Rose’s story, recounted by her nurse, exemplifies the fear — and sometimes bravery — that comes with the epidemic.In the Doctors Without Borders isolation ward, things got worse for Rose’s family. Her mother, feeling depressed and hopeless, gave up, waiting for death. Her aunt was also sure she was going to die.“No, you’re not,” Rose insisted.Since the outbreak began in Guinea in February, nearly 730 people have died there and in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The risks for health workers are high, and several senior doctors have died, including Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, Sheik Umar Khan.