The grounding

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Sunday, August 3, 2014


MYSTERIOUS happenings have always been accurate at predicting people’s reactions and identifying the brave and heroic. Such is the case of the ebola virus now raging at epidemic level in West Africa, and claiming 700 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

For starters, ebola is an insidious enemy, initially masking itself as common ailments--fever, aches, sore throat. Its early symptoms could even be of malaria and typhoid fever.

It is ebola, World Health Organization experts say, when patients experience severe internal bleeding and blood coming out of their mouth, eyes or ears. Most fearsomely, that’s when ebola is contagious.

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So, in crowded buses, theaters, open-air concerts or even pre-departure areas, you could be sitting near ebola carriers. If a seatmate coughs, exhibits fever symptoms or massages some aches, it’s easy to turn hypochondriac.

So, when your seatmate starts wretching, or you faintly suspect some red fluid welling up in his mouth, eye or ear, of course you have to run for your life.

Unfortunately, in that crowded room, the close-contact moments could also have allowed the transfer of body fluids like sweat or saliva to those immediately around the victim.

Sadly, too, there is no known cure or even specific treatment for this deadly virus.

Infectious disease specialist Bruce Ribner revealed that the only approach is “to keep the body well-hydrated… to keep the patient alive long enough so his body can control the infection.”

Meaning, the patient either fights off the virus or doesn’t.

That explains why ebola claimed the life of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan. Though Sierra Leone’s top ebola doctor and one of the world’s leading experts in the clinical care of viral hemorrhagic fevers, he had attended to ebola victims. Eventually, the numbers did him in, and the immune system must have turned puny to the onslaught of patients to attend to.

While Khan has been considered a national hero, two Americans infected with ebola were not welcomed back into their native land. This, after American Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol had been helping in medical missions in Liberia.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admitted receiving nasty e-mails and over a hundred calls. Their common message: “How dare you bring Ebola into the country?”

With the death rate from ebola estimated to be 60 percent in West Africa, the anxiety in the US homeland is understandable. Until a definite cure or specific treatment for ebola is known, the anxiety will continue to escalate. With 700 dying from ebola, one needs no proof of death’s palpable face.

Also, this is the first time that an ebola patient is being treated on US soil. That Brantly and Writebol will be placed in a separate containment unit just for them is no big diffuser.

Still, the call for sobriety and compassion is in order. State officials have called for a balance between fear of the unfamiliar with compassion for fellow Americans who have fallen ill and returned home for care.

The most poignant plea yet has come from Brantly’s brother Kevin. “It takes a lot of worry and care about other people to put your own life at risk for people you don’t know,” he said. “That’s what it takes to make this world a better place.”

Such powerful grounding, that.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 04, 2014.

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