We've read the news reports and seen the photos. But none of it quite prepares you for the terror expressed by a young Liberian medical student on the front lines of his country's Ebola outbreak.
Gondah Lekpeh, a fourth-year medical student in Monrovia, who is writing at the PLoS Medical Journal's Community Blog, reports on the grief and chaos that surrounds him:
As I was writing this, a childhood schoolmate of mine, a nurse, just died this morning after contracting the disease at St. Catholic Hospital while treating a patient about two weeks ago.
The virus is spreading like wildfire, devouring the life of everyone along its path. Limited health resources, ignorance, stigmatization, denial, and cultural burial rites are fueling the spread of the disease…..As part of control measures, everyone was advised to call the Ebola response unit for safe transfer of suspected cases and disposal of corpses from communities in and around Monrovia….These teams are overwhelmed and it takes about two to three days to respond to calls from communities. The relatives of suspected cases end up transporting the patient in a commercial vehicle, thereby contaminating themselves. The remains of suspected cases who died at homes spend days before the burial team can arrive. Moreover, there is only one treatment center in Monrovia. The isolation center is full to capacity and suspected cases are reportedly turned away. When will the spread and death of Ebola stop in the wake of limited resources? I do not know. But I know for sure that contact tracing is not possible and we are overstretched and exhausted.
Others are dying of treatable conditions due to closure of health facilities. Most health facilities in and around Monrovia have been closed for the past three weeks. This followed the failure of most health workers to show up on duty after the death of their colleagues. They fled due lack of equipment as simple as gloves to protect themselves….. Where are the obstetric emergency cases being managed? Where are the hundreds of children who usually present weekly at John F. Kennedy Medical Center under-five ER with diarrhea and severe dehydration and severe malaria complicated by anemia, hypoglycemia and seizure, seeking care?
I do not know. But I know there are numerous corpses in homes in and around Monrovia which have overwhelmed the burial teams.