Posts Tagged ‘Ebola’

Bonjour mes amis!

It’s halfway through November already, and I already miss the rain. The red laterite dust that blankets the ground here in Mali really does blanket everything. And with the end of the rainy season it only gets dustier. The brownish red paints everything with at least a single layer of tint. Buildings, streets signs, sidewalks, plants, everything has a slight tint of this deep, almost bloody red.

They tell me the rain won’t come again until next year. Bamako is barely in the Northern hemisphere so it is generally starting to get a little cooler now. This helps one to forget it’s effectively stopped raining until next August. However if I am to understand correctly, once April hits, it will be the real hot season and I’ll want to kill myself. Happy Birthday to me. In the end I’m confident these “seasons” will have little to no effect on my wardrobe. Either way, sleeveless all day. The only thing that could change is I might just eliminate shirts from my wardrobe entirely.

I’m actually kind of glad I have no current plans to visit the States for the holidays. Not because I wouldn’t love to see all my friends and family back home, but I hear the U.S. is starting to be pretty tough on people entering the country from Mali, and I would prefer not to have someone follow me around for 20 days taking my temperature. No, I’ll happily stay in my corner of the Sahara and catch up on my reading.

Last week Edmond took a five-day trip back to Togo to pick up his family and bring them back up to Bamako to live here with him. Thankfully his trip through the Ebola hot zone was a grand success! This has been his plan ever since moving to Bamako, so I’m ecstatic that he found a way to actually make that happen. He grew up working in the fields in Togo with a drunkard for a father, paying his own way through grade school and learning the culinary trade. Now he and his family have an apartment in Bamako. His kids get the chance to grow up in a major international city because he has worked his ass off his whole life. That’s what it’s all about in my book. Hoo-rah!

French is slowly becoming less of a mystery. I can understand a good amount of what I hear. Now the challenge comes to being able to speak it back to the world. I’ve got faith. Today in class I learned a phrase I doubt I’ll forget. La haine est la fille de l’amour. Hate is the daughter of love. That’s some gnarly stuff right there.

Well, that’s all I’ve got from my end for now. Just to throw some news in here, shout out to Anonymous for hacking the KKK’s twitter account and posting St. Louis members’ identities online after their chapter threatened protestors there with “lethal force.” Now that’s what I call hacktivism. If you’re interested, look up #OpKKK. Good stuff.

Have a good one Internet. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

Onward and upward,
Z

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Hello, hello, my internet fellows!

Apologies for the short delay. This has been an eventful week for me to say the least, which I will.

There are larger issues at play this week than my shenanigans. As most of you may already know, Mali had a big spot in the news this week. As of this week Mali is officially the newest country to have reported a case of Ebola. A two year old girl was diagnosed with the disease after entering the country through Guinea with some family who have since been quarantined. She has since passed. Unfortunately at least one of the girl’s parents had already died from the virus when she left Guinea, which shares it’s largest border with Mali. The girl was noted to have had a nosebleed for the duration of their bus ride, which stopped in multiple cities along its route. No other travelers have been found with symptoms so far, but the government is still trying to track down everyone who she may have come into contact with along her trip to be sure. The Guinean-Malian border is fairly open, which is a large concern for Malians, but thankfully Ebola isn’t the most contagious of diseases.

According to the World Health Organization Fact Sheet on Ebola, the Ebola Virus Disease is only contagious when people are showing symptoms of sickness. Symptoms begin 2 to 21 days after contracting the virus. Transmission happens through direct contact with the fluids of someone exhibiting symptoms. According to the WHO, “first symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.” In early stages transmission through fluids could mean the sweat of someone fevering, however generally it is not easily transmissible unless fluids come into contact with “broken skin or mucous membranes,” like armpits or tear ducts, though hang nails and small cuts on the hands are something to watch out for and maintain. So shaking an infected person’s sweaty hand does not automatically condemn you; it is still a good idea, and definitely worth it to wash your hands if you think you might have.

The major issue with how this outbreak has been handled is brought to light in Mali’s particular situation. Most people who have been paying attention to the outbreak know not to touch people who are showing severe symptoms like bleeding from the eyes or vomiting in the street, but one question of real importance seems to be consistently overlooked; what counts as the beginning? Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that even the first signs of sweat from someone feeling feverish, or the saliva from a cough could contain traces of Ebola. This is why the virus is confused with one that could be transmissible through the air. The Ebola virus cannot be transmitted through the air, but it can be transmitted through droplets of mucus or saliva traveling through the air, making a bus ride with an infected person potentially dangerous if they are coughing or sneezing into the open. This method of transmission has only been found between pigs and monkeys so far, and in experimental conditions however, so needless to say it is not the easiest route for the disease to take. So the verdict stands; carriers are infections from the moment they begin excreting fluids as a result of the virus. This issue poses an unfortunate and controversial problem for people when you throw another element into the mix: children.

We want to comfort and take care of our children when they are sick, but in cases where Ebola may be the reality of the situation, such care may have to be given from a distance. No one wants to think about, let alone discuss the possibility of separating oneself from their sick child. Most parents are commendably committed to staying as close as possible to make themselves available for whatever reason their child may need them, but with Ebola, children create a special highway on which to travel. This, the first and only reported case in Mali so far, as well as Patient Zero in Guinea were children. However in Senegal, one and only one case was reported because their Patient Zero was a 21 year old man whom did not spend his time in the constant care of others. Unfortunately this is such a barbaric virus that it turns our compassion into our fatal undoing.

Mali, as well as the rest of the world, might need to start clarifying a bit more about how Ebola can be transmitted outside of the health centers. Unfortunately Mali also has to deal with the issue of ensuring procedure is correctly followed within those centers, but thankfully Mali’s health services in major cities are generally pretty competent. Once confirming this case was in fact Ebola there was swift action taken to track down and disinfect the bus, as well as find any who may have made contact with the child. It is the culture of the populous that concerns me most at the moment. Health officials have suspected the virus existed in Mali for some time, but the overwhelming desire to hide infection and simply ride it out at home poses some of the greatest risks for transmission. Cases can’t be reported when people don’t come forward. That being said, Mali needs to get it’s story straight and try to send out a more consistent set of information to its citizens. They’ve been giving it a good effort; I’ve seen the PSA’s on TV. The dissemination of information here needs to be wider-reaching and more comprehensive though, especially if they really want to cut this virus off in its path and hope to contain it along the towns and villages bordering Guinea.

In addition, not much information has been circulating concerning post-recovery procedures for those who are lucky enough to survive infection. Once again, as the WHO has so eloquently put it, “People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.” Bummer, man.

At the end of the day, what can the average person do? The answer is obvious and not isolated to this Ebola outbreak. Wash your hands whenever you get a chance. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and don’t touch other peoples’ dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been BLEEDING FROM THEIR EYES. No, but seriously. If you do find yourself in a vulnerable position in relation to this outbreak, practicing basic, common-sense hygiene may be your best defence against contracting the virus. If not, wash your hands anyway. Remember, even soap is a privilege many do not enjoy.

I hope this clarified some things. Until next time, be safe people. Onward and upward.

-Z

Ahoy, internet!

I am quickly approaching a week in Bamako, Mali so I suppose I’ll give you a bit of a rundown of my experience here thus far.

I am really beginning to fall in love with this place.  I have now been out a few times, so I am starting to get a little bit of a feel for how this city operates.  There are two sides to the city, one on either bank of the Niger river, with bridges to connect the two at numerous points.  There is no real main downtown area, though there is a newly developing area where the old airport once was.  This is an oddly vibrant area because half the land is now big, new office buildings and half has yet to be developed.  The land has been taken over by locals for gardening, selling goods and, well, living.  Then of course, right there you meet the gorgeous (and gated) U.S. Embassy… but I digress.

The river does not seem to mark any economic or social border.  The city appears to simply scatter itself in all directions with no visible pattern.  I’m sure more patterns will make themselves clear in time.  My father wasn’t lying when he said they don’t pick up the trash in the streets.  Since the new President took office, I hear the police and government agencies have not done much to help in the daily lives of the citizens here.  Especially now with the war in the north and the whole Ebola scare, the government seems a bit preoccupied to say the least.  As a result, trash floats down every road and the traffic laws are essentially unenforceable suggestions.  People live in makeshift tents in undeveloped fields the same as new building development sites.  Knowing the rules is important, but following them may cost you your life, as they say.  And ain’t that the truth.

The people of this city have seen some horrible things.  They still remember ’91 when the people stormed the Presidential Palace and were met with military bullets.  Every day the northern states are under radical Islamic law.  Not to mention one woman dies every eight minutes attempting childbirth.  Life is fragile on this side of the world.  Life is fragile everywhere, but some places the soft spots are more visible than others.  But the people here inspire me to no end.  In the midst of innumerable hardships the clothes are vibrant, the food is still carefully crafted and delicious, and the weekends are reserved for dancing.  Watching the way everyone gathers and smiles and dances without critique or concern has been truly wonderful so far.  It just goes to show that unless we learn to dance when the music plays, we can never know how to dance when there is none.

As humans, we can appreciate like no other creature on the planet.  Our eyes let us see in color, our tastebuds let us recognize insane combinations of flavors, and our ears – our ears know music!  If there is anything that separates our lives from the beasts, I am convinced it is this: our capacity to appreciate.  In the midst of a brutal world, we create music.  So this week I’ve got a homework assignment for anyone who actually reads this.  Take a little bit of time to appreciate something you like, like a favorite song or movie.  Or go for a walk and sit at that one bench for a bit while you enjoy the view.  Let’s face it, we’ve all got the time.  The first, shorter link I’ve attached here is to a live rendition of the Godfather theme song, performed by Slash from Guns N’ Roses.  I include it because it is one of the most beautiful little covers of a classic I’ve ever seen, and every time I can’t help but feel something.  The second is a bit longer, but worth every minute.  This is a rendition of Walt Whitman’s famous 60-page poem, Song of Myself, arguably his greatest single work, read of course by Darth Vader himself, Mr. James Earl Jones.  I hope these might do for you what they have done for me, and if not, they’re entertaining at least.

Onward and outward,

-Z