Hapana Ebola Hapa (=No Ebola Here)

Thank you to the friends and family who’ve contacted me to ask about the status of Ebola here. I love that you’re thinking of us and definitely owe you an update (especially after so recently complaining about giardia!). You all had done your homework, too, mentioning that it seemed to be far away from us. Those of you who haven’t contacted me probably also noticed it wasn’t too close. So I say nice work everybody, we have a total geography WIN here!

Whichever camp you fall in, you’re right. It IS far away from us. There are no reported cases in our little DR-Congo, nor any neighboring countries. This reassurance, of course, overlooks a few key facts, like: Ebola was discovered in 1976 in this very country; it’s named after a tributary of the Congo River; and, somehow, the current strain affecting West Africa (out of five possibilities) is the “Zaire” strain, or the same one that usually strikes here. Yikes. Ahem.

When we first heard about the outbreak (and specifically the very ill Liberian man who boarded a plane and brought the disease to Nigeria, where now there are 13 confirmed cases), we panicked a little bit and nearly cancelled all travel plans for the foreseeable future.

But then we started reading every news piece we could get our hands on, and began to feel slightly less panicked after learning a couple of things in particular.

The first thing is, unlike other viruses like the common cold and the flu, Ebola apparently isn’t easily transmitted just by being in the same vicinity as an infected person. You don’t just catch it because someone sneezed near you, or you shared the same recycled plane air. It’s transmitted through fluids only. So as long as someone doesn’t sneeze (or puke, or bleed) ON you, you should be ok.

The second is, apparently a person who is carrying or harboring the virus during its rather long incubation period is not contagious. They have to be actively ill — AND you have to be up in their business — in order to catch it from them.

At least, that’s what we’re reading. I don’t understand then how entire villages can be wiped out, nor how well-protected well-trained doctors are catching it… I don’t know. I guess there’s a lot of business-sharing going on. We were shocked to learn that in the affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia — the normal state of health care means a couple of doctors for every 100,000 people. Imagine living like that. Bravo to the selfless volunteers from around the world who have been and continue to bring healthcare to these people who so desperately need it. And bravo to everyone who helped bring those two Americans home for their turn to receive the very best we can give. I’m extremely proud of my country for that.

9 comments

  1. It is good to know that there is no eboli around you. I,too, had been watching the news and knew that you were far away from the current crisis. I enjoyed your big is beautiful as well. I feel better about putting on a few more pounds!! Love, Grandma

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  2. Thank for the update, Jen. I had seen that it wasn’t near you–but I also know you travel–so I am glad you are really watching out for it. Hope all is well! 🙂

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  3. Jen — I have advised a lot of travelers coming to DRC about this but having your info backs up what I am saying — Thanks and Take Care

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  4. Jen, Sneezing creates air-borne micro fluids, so yes you conceivably contract Ebola from the sneeze of an infected person. Further, with such a long incubation period, the actual point of infectivity is questionable as early symptoms could very subtle. To add to the epidemic is the fact that early symptoms are much like a bad flu. I suspect this is the stage at which villages are at the highest risk, particularly with community water supplies, lack of sewer treatment and lack of hand washing facilities. Neighbors-relatives visiting and caring for sick neighbors-relatives is also a factor. I know this may sound crass, but nature does have a way of dealing with overpopulation.

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  5. Glad to hear that you are out of harm’s way. I had been thinking about you since the news of Ebola began. Thanks for the update!

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  6. Thanks for the update, re: Ebola outbreak! Hopefully the Ebola spread will be curtailed in very short order … lots of courageous folks that are putting their lives on the line to help the infected population(s)! You and Zeb stay healthy and take care!

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