trusting . resting . following

Ebola... View from a Missionary Doctor

November 5, 2014
We are blessed to have several American doctors who live and work here in Mwanza.  Dr. Rob, who has lived here for 7 years (ish) with his family, and works and trains in our local hospital had this to say about ebola...

When I think of Ebola, I think of my fellow African doctors and other healthcare workers who are standing on the front lines in Liberia, Sierra Leon and Guinea. I don't need to stretch my imagination very far. I know what their hospitals are like. I can see the basic resources they lack. I can feel the sense of desperation, the knowledge of what should be done without the ability to accomplish it. I can smell the stringent of of bleach tinged with diarrhea. There's part of me that really wants to volunteer to go to West Africa to join my colleagues on the front line of this great battle. The current fight against Ebola is one of those epic medical battles that are requires healthcare soldiers who are willing to die in order to push one step further to victory.

As a colleague recently e-mailed: "Resources needed for ONE DAY to care for 125 Ebola patients include: 300-600 staff, 350 head to toe body suits (@$23 each +$8K), 6,600gallons of water and 2,500 gallons of bleach. In Sierra Leone and Liberia they are telling patients to stay home and drink lots of fluids. No room and nothing available in hospitals. It will get much worse before it gets better."

Ebola remains far from us in Tanzania. The likelihood that Ebola would spread all of the way across Africa - from West to East - is infinitesimally small. Ebola spreads by direct contact with bodily fluid. Ebola victims develop symptoms and die (or are healed) within 4-6 weeks of contracting the infection. Ebola therefore travels either slowly by foot or very rapidly by air. For this reason, Ebola is much more likely to spread from West Africa to either Europe or the US than East Africa. So as doctors in East Africa, we don't think about Ebola very much.

Better safe than sorry, though. Bugando's community health team gave their first presentation about Ebola preparations 3 weeks ago. Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Cornell's legal office offering condolences for the tragedy of Ebola in Africa and, incidentally, wondering what our plans were for Cornell students and faculty at Bugando if Ebola ever did reach Tanzania. I e-mailed the CDC and Embassy offices in Dar es Salaam. We developed a plan whereby all Cornell visitors will be sent home if there is ever a case of Ebola reported anywhere in East Africa. We have purchased 100 sets of Ebola personal protective equipment (PPE) from Germany. I am working with the Bugando emergency department to develop a plan for Ebola screening among all patients. Luke and I are aggressively teaching the Tanzanian students and other doctors that any patient admitted with fever and recent travel to one of the affected countries must be isolated.

Please pray. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who are on the front lines fighting against Ebola in West Africa. Pray that the Name of Jesus Christ may be glorified through their lives or deaths (600 healthcare workers have already been infected!). Pray that the Church may rally around them in their time of need so that we may show the world the Unity that we have through Jesus Christ our Savior. Pray that Ebola may not spread any further. One colleague of mine said that Nigeria and Senegal are the only firewalls remaining and the DR of Congo is the tinderbox. Ebola is very likely to make it that far, but given the current weakness of health systems in DR of Congo (and Tanzania), if Ebola ever spread to these countries it would be very difficult to control.
4 comments on "Ebola... View from a Missionary Doctor"
  1. Thank you for this post! It has answered questions that have been on my mind concerning Tanzania. Praying for those that are working on the front lines and those who are affected in the countries where Ebola has spread. Keeping all of you in my prayers.

    1. It definitely makes me think Jesus is coming soon, all the fighting in the middle east and now ebola! Thanks for praying.

  2. Thank you for posting that! We are and will continue praying!


    1. Hey Lauren! How in the world are ya?!? it's been awhile. :-)