April 28, 2014
Ebola Virus Survivors Now Face Stigma

Ebola virus survivors have done what seems to be the nearly impossible just by surviving the Ebola virus. Now survivors who are in good health face a stigma, isolation from others in their town or county.

One such case is that of a doctor who contracted the Ebola virus, now completely healthy, people are afraid to come near him.

This man was supposed to give an interview on Guinean radio to tell his story of triumph, but the station management would not let him in.

"We'd prefer he speak by phone from downstairs," a station official told a representative of Doctors Without Borders, while the survivor waited outside in a car. "I can't take the risk of letting him enter our studio."

The Ebola virus has taken more than 145 lives in West Africa and more than 240 people are suspected of contracting the illness. Ebola virus causes very harsh suffering including, bursting blood vessels and bleeding from the ears, eyes, and other orifices. No cure, vaccine, or treatment is known for Ebola, and the disease is nearly always fatal.

However, a few do survive the Ebola virus. About 30 survival stories have surfaced so far in Guinea, where the highest concentration of the virus exists.

"Thanks be to God, I am cured. But now I have a new disease: the stigmatization that I am a victim of," said the Guinean doctor, who spoke to The Associated Press but refused to give his name for fear of further problems the publicity would cause him and his family. "This disease (the stigma) is worse than the fever."

The doctor thinks he contracted Ebola by taking care of a friend who died in Conakry, Guinea. The good doctor did not know that his friend had the Ebola virus.

After his friend had passed from the virus, the doctor began having headaches and had a high fever which wouldn't break; shortly after, the diarrhea and vomiting started.

"I should have died," the doctor said, but he responded positively to care, which includes intensive hydration, and unlike most other Ebola virus patients, he lived.

Still after his successful battle with the deadly Ebola virus, people avoid him, instead of celebrating him.

"Now, everywhere in my neighborhood, all the looks bore into me like I'm the plague," he said.

When he shows up places, people leave. He no longer shakes hands with people or has company at meals. Even his family accuses him of putting them in danger.

Often times with severe illnesses such as the Ebola virus or HIV, stigma follows. It is an unfortunate side effect of misunderstood diseases.