CONTRACTING EBOLA WHILE TRAVELLING


Imagine sitting in one of the very busy international airports. You are in transit and are told that your flight will arrive in 6 hours but then there is a delay. You and other passengers are notified that you will be here at least another 8 more hours. The agency offered lodging in the city but you and many others decided to spend your time in the airport. Here and there you walk in the airport to stretch your body. You drink coffee and read the book that you brought to decrease the awareness of time. You sleep on the couches in the terminals while making sure that the luggage is safe. Every few minutes you hear a warning from the microphone that any luggage left unattended is to be collected and destroyed by the homeland security. Not only that but a fanatic can come and put some contraband in the luggage. While being in that situation, someone comes and sits next to you. After sometime, that someone starts coughing and sneezing incessantly. He holds a napkin in his hand and uses it to blow his nose and to clean it afterwards. You talk to self and say, “God, the last thing that I want to get now is flu in addition to this tiring trip.

Then, the person next to you gets better and starts talking to you. You offered handshake for respect but he humbly refuses it while making you aware of the possibility that he has some type of horrible flu that he does not want you to contract. After greetings and introducing each other, you realize that your new acquaintance is a prominent African business person. The conversation continues and you both share your experiences in life. The business person bombards you with ideas of business, countries he visited, and a new lucrative textile company he just started. You, however, talked about your immigration to the west, your expectations before migrating, how things turned out after you came, and, finally, how a relative saved you from the misery by directing you to going to school. You continue with your part of the conversation telling the business person that the western life is not as easy as we think and we can do well in Africa if we work hard. The business person takes from there and fills you in why Africans are running away from the continent. He adds, it is not because Africa is not rich but because we are corrupted. He gives you an example by saying that when you are in a very long (may be 100-200 people in queue) line for a public service. The public servant sees his cousin or an old friend at the end of the line. He stops what he is doing, comes out of the counter or the office, and goes to the end of the line to escort that relative or old friend. Imagine, how many relatives an African can have? The whole members of the tribe are his relatives.  The whole shift can be spent with that public servant going out of office, escorting a relative and serving him while the rest of the people burn under the hot tropical sun. By the end of day, they go home in despair. That is only a low ranking public servant but his teacher may be the president or the minister. He continues saying that the nation is like an entity that belongs to the president and his surrounding and they use for their good. But, he says, the people suffer while the president and the ministers fill their Swiss banks accounts with the money borrowed in the name of the people and the country. Not only that but the nation has to pay the debt with interest. He mentions some past prominent African dictators who had billions of dollar in their Swiss Bank accounts such as Mobutu Sese Seko (Past president of Congo-Kinshasa, formerly called Zaire), the guy with the cane filled of diamonds. In that moment, the business person takes out a plastic bottle from his bag and takes four pills of acetaminophen and gulps it with water. With great anguish, you tell him that taking all these pills one time can damage his liver. He tells you that he has horrible headache and one or two pills do not help at all. He adds that he took about a dozen of them in the last 8 hours. he says that he feels very hot and has sore throat, muscle and bone pain. The man starts shivering. You tell him that you will get some help for him. He says, “don’t worry it will be over in a few minutes.” Then he adds that he might have malaria or another tropical disease. At that moment you become suspicious and ask him what country he is from. He tell you, honesty, and without hesitation that he is from West Africa, from Sierra Leone.

You don’t know whether to continue with the trip or go out of the airport and straight to the emergency department of the closest hospital. You think for a while and decide to continue with the trip. You don’t want to miss this opportunity of visiting home after 25 years. You tell the business person that you want to walk a little as you were sitting there for a long time when, in fact, you are just running away from him. You pull your baggage and walk here and there. Later, you come back but sit a bit far away from him. He tells you that he is on his way to home after buying some factory equipment from this country to finish the installation of his textile factory. You tell him about the homesick that you have as you did not visit your home country for about 25 years. He is surprised and says,” why is that?” You tell him that he won’t understand so it is better not to talk about it.  You add that it is not easy to go back for many reasons but the main reason is financial. You have to buy a ticket that is very expensive, you have to carry cash so when you get there all the relatives expect you to give (a member of the main tribe could show up as a relative and should be given generously). He tells you that he understands. Now, the man could not sit anymore. He lays down on one of the couches and starts moaning with pain. You go with your bags and let know one of the security people walking around about the situation. The security person moves towards the man while you follow him but you stand far away from the sick person.  He gets closer to businessman and talks to him.  The man tells him that he feels like having a flu or malaria but now it gets worse that his head is about to explode, his bones are painful as if being beaten, and with horrible muscle ache. In the next few minutes, he starts vomiting but astonishingly the vomitus was bloody. A few minutes later, he had diarrhea that he could not hold to reach the public rest rooms. My suspicion becomes true; the businessman has Ebola or a type of other hemorrhagic disease such as Lassa fever

The security used his phone call and notified the central office and the police department of the airport. The emergency department of the N University Medical Center was notified and a dozen of ambulances are sent. As you think about the situation, you can’t decide whether to slip away, hide in the crowd and continue with your trip or surrender. You decided to surrender because taking Ebola to back home is like committing intentional mass murder. A third world country without a functioning government and a people with no experience of such type of disease can lead to epidemic Ebola. After thirty minutes, the whole situation changes.

The health care staff with hoods and paraphernalia arrive. The business man is dressed like one of the health care staff and the place is disinfected. Two dozens of police with masks, gloves, and aprons arrive with the healthcare team. You, the security and few other people who were closer to the businessman are also taken. You are told that it is just precaution and you are going to be under observation in the health care facility for a few days. You resist and demand your rights. For you, it was the loss of a ticket that costs $2,200 and not being able to visit home after so long. But one should be careful about the consequences. The air agency promises that it will refund your tickets in full and if you want to travel later after clearance it can issue new tickets for you. With that relief, you go with the team.

You arrive at the hospital and are taken to a separate wing of the hospital. The businessman is taken to a separate wing too. In the next 30 days, you don’t see anyone but masks and dolly faces that are fading. One of the doctors comes and explains to you that you and other people who were close to the sick businessman are going to be kept in surveillance for a while. In the meanwhile, they will blood tests.

You rest isolated from the world for thirty days. The Ebola incubation period is two to twenty-one days but the doctors keep you up to thirty days to be in the safe side. One expects you to gain weight as you are inert but you lose weight. You don’t eat, even though very good meals are provided. You don’t sleep as you are preoccupied with your situation. Are you infected? Are you going to be treated if you are infected? Is there, really, a treatment for Ebola? May be, you are going to be sick and nobody even knows about you. After you die the media informs the public that someone with tell name died from Ebola after contracting it in one of the nation’s international airports. The individual is to be cremated to prevent contamination and spread of the disease. The National Organization of Epidemic Control will do the cremation and other steps necessary for prevention. No relatives are allowed to visit the body of the death.  The loved ones and relatives can get more information by calling 1800-EBOLA. Your brain is about to explode with so many thoughts about your plans, your probability of being sick, your aborted trip, and, nonetheless, the people who are worried because they don’t know of your whereabouts.  Finally, you are relieved as you are told that you are being released from the hospital or the prison after 31 days.

This is an imagined story but it can happen to you to me and to anyone. Precaution is needed to decrease the exposure and the spread of EBOLA, particularly, in the third world where the stakes will be high.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: