NEWS Exorcising the ghostly fever


Cooler King
Staff member
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THE first time Jonah Kieh heard about Ebola was last spring, when a friend warned him of a “wickedness” spread by ghosts, turning victims feverish and then killing them. Mr Kieh was visiting his extended family near Takpoima, in the forest of Lofa-Mano national park in Liberia, to sell hair brushes and other cosmetic products from Monrovia, the capital. He paid little heed to the wickedness, but after several weeks he became frightened as people kept dying around him. “I ran back to Monrovia,” he says. Back in West Point, the city’s main slum, Mr Kieh fell ill with either Ebola or malaria (the initial symptoms are very similar). He stayed indoors for weeks and eventually recovered.
Mr Kieh’s story says much about the spread of Ebola. The illness first broke out some time in December 2013 in the remote town of Meliandou, in the forest of Guinea. Through ignorance, lack of prompt diagnosis and the movement of people, it spread and took hold in the teeming cities of the region—especially Monrovia and Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone.
It took months for villagers to view the virus as a medical rather than spiritual problem, superstition being a central part of life in the forest. Occult leaders encouraged the expulsion from the community of the sick, further accelerating the epidemic. Even when villagers accepted the need for medical help they initially relied on traditional healers who treated them with tree bark. Dead bodies, which are highly infectious, continued to be washed by hand before burial, according to local rituals. Rather than isolate the sick, families drew closer to care for them. “Relatives came to bring food and be together,” says Mr Kieh. Especially in the cities, cramped conditions provided favourable conditions for a disease that is passed on by contact with body fluids. Neighbours share toilets, taps, bedrooms and, at times, mattresses. :eek: :shocked: :zoned:

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