Ebola Outbreak: Fight Against Disease Hampered by Belief in Witchcraft, Warns British Doctor

Colin Freeman, Telegraph (London), July 30, 2014

A British doctor fighting the devastating Ebola outbreak in west Africa has told how belief in witchcraft is hampering the fight to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

Benjamin Black, 32, a volunteer with the charity Médecins Sans Frontières in Sierra Leone, said that some of those in infected areas were not seeking medical treatment as they thought the disease was the work of sorcerers. Belief in witchcraft and traditional medicine is still prevalent in parts of west Africa, particularly the remote rural areas of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia where the outbreak has been concentrated.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Dr Black, who completed a four-day stint earlier this week at an Ebola treatment clinic in Kailahun, near Sierra Leone’s northern border with Guinea, said: “There is a section of population here who simply don’t believe Ebola is real, they think it is witchcraft and so they don’t come to the treatment centres.

“Sometimes, even those who turn up at clinics with symptoms of the disease will be resistant to the idea that they have it. They will say ‘yes, people in my family have died already, but this is witchcraft rather than Ebola’.”

Dr Black, who is from Manchester but currently works as an obstetrics & gynaecology registrar at north London’s Whittington Hospital, went to Sierra Leone back in June, where he originally expected to be working in maternity wards. He was seconded to an Ebola clinic in the wake of the spread of the epidemic, which is the largest of its kind in medical history.

More than 1,200 cases have so far been reported in the three affected nations, with 224 deaths in Sierra Leone, 129 in Liberia, and 319 in Guinea, where the outbreak is thought to have first begun. Among the fatalities in Sierra Leone has been Sheik Umar Khan, a doctor who was playing a leading part in the fight against the disease.

Avoiding a similar fate for themselves has been one of the main challenges for Dr Black and his colleagues in the 56-bed clinic at Kailahun, which lies in a densely-forested district that is at the centre of one of the worst outbreaks.

While treating patients, medics must wear an all-encompassing plastic yellow body suit, along with two face masks, two pairs of gloves, a plastic apron and medical scrubs. In Sierra Leone’s humid tropical heat–temperatures at this time of year are around 80F–those wearing the suits have to be careful not to pass out from the heat.

“The protective equipment is very hot to wear and incredibly claustrophobic–I once tried working in it in the heat of midday and could barely last 15 minutes,” said Dr Black. “Most of the time we try to start very early in the morning before the sun comes up, and even then the goggles eventually become misted over.”

After working, each medic disrobes in a special non-contaminated area, where each garment has to be sprayed with chlorine as it is removed. Outside of work, they also observe a strict “no touch” policy, whereby even handshakes are forbidden. “At first it’s a reflex to touch other people when you interact with them, but it soon becomes normal,” Dr Black said. “A lot of health workers have unfortunately contacted the illness already, and the risks are very high.”

The clinic, he said, operated a triage assessment system to work out which patients were confirmed as having the disease. Contrary to popular depictions, many Ebola sufferers do not seem particularly ill at first, complaining only of flu-like coughs or vomiting rather than the nose and eye-bleeds that characterise its later stages.

But doctors can go on certain warning signs, in particular patients saying that they have recently attended a funeral of a friend or relative. Local funeral customs often include the practice of touching and kissing loved ones’ bodies, which by that stage are a prime incubator of Ebola.

Dr Black added that many of those referred to the clinic were children, some of whom had already lost both their parents to the disease. “We had one ambulance turn up with a mother and a child in it, but the mother had died during the journey to the clinic, leaving her daughter of eight on her own,” he said.

Ebola has a fatality of around 90 per cent, but if treated early enough, patients can fight the disease off. While a number of patients passed away during Dr Black’s time at the clinic, every day there was usually “a couple” who pulled through and were discharged.

“There were many sad stories, but the discharges were amazing, emotional occasions, where the whole clinic, from the cleaning staff to the head of the mission, would come out and give big applause,” he said. “I can still feel goose pimples talking about it now. The problem is that often the kids are coming out as orphans, and they may face stigma when they get home because they’ve had Ebola, although we send outreach workers with them to spread the message that they are OK.”

Another problem, he added, was that the medics’ spaceman-like attire frightened locals. In neighbouring Guinea, some village chiefs have barred medics from entering, claiming that they are actually spreading the disease. Other teams of doctors have been threatened by mobs with machetes.

“Many patients who come to us are already very sick by the time they do so, and so often all people see at the clinic is a doctor sticking a needle in someone for a blood test and then them dying shortly afterwards,” said Dr Black.

“That becomes a conspiracy theory that we are actually injecting them with something that kills them. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done in terms of education on all this, otherwise this epidemic is just going to continue.”

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  • Who are we to argue with black science?

    • Einsatzgrenadier

      Yep. We should help nature cull the herd by encouraging blacks to retain their traditional beliefs in witchcraft.

      • IstvanIN

        They have only been able to reproduce out of control because of vaccinations, antibiotics, and modern agriculture invented by…drum roll please…..

        • Sick of it

          And liberal doctors who offer them care for free…while charging us through the nose. If they’ll see us at all.

          • The last time I had iritis – a really bad case – my old eye doctor refused to see me. Now I have a new one, who said it was the worst case he had ever seen.

          • Sick of it

            My dry eye is bad enough, that sounds terrible.

          • World_War_Me

            Have you tried silicone eye (punctal) plugs? If your dry eye is caused by larger-than-normal tear ducts, an eye doctor can put these plugs in them to help retain moisture. I had it done and it’s been a huge relief. The silicone eventually get absorbed by your, body, so you have to have fresh ones put in every 6 months.

            Hope this helps. I know how unbearable it can be.

          • Sick of it

            That’s not the reason, but, hopefully, your advice can help someone with said problem.

  • JackKrak

    “Fight Against Disease Hampered By Belief in Witchcraft”

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that an African with Ebola turned down medicine from a white doctor for fear that his penis would fall off if he did.

  • MekongDelta69

    Are we talking witchcraft in West Africa or in all our ‘vibrantly diverse’ cities?

    Jes’ axin’

  • Anglo

    Whites need to realize it’s time to leave Africans to their own demise.

    • Chip Carver

      Whites need to believe the possibility that one reason that Ebola is all over the news is because someone might be thinking of introducing one of the strains (eventually) to North America. Get people aware just enough to have heard of it, what it can do. Better than having it pop up out of the blue.

      If it shows up in the US, there’s a very good chance that it won’t be by accident, although the official story will likely be otherwise.

      Nah, that stuff only happens in the movies. Our leaders would never do that to us, would they?

      • Anglo

        Another gift from Africa. This is scary.

  • Ultimate187

    On a related note, one of the two infected Americans is being taken to Atlanta. The other probably to Germany.

  • disqus_Xz3UA6obwj

    Stupid can be very deadly and it is also incurable.

  • That last sentence quoting the doctor as saying more education was needed is a real laugher. Stupid white liberals like him never grasp that education doesn’t take with blacks. Their primitive brains are incapable of absorbing ideas and acting on them rationally. It’s too bad that Africa’s natural resources were such a magnet for the white man because now we are stuck with managing the fallout from these primitives for eternity, or until our race is exterminated by them via their numbers.

  • I am having a very hard time giving a rip. If these idiots would stop eating bats and monkeys, they wouldn’t have problems like this. Today we had a bass I caught and fried, and we aren’t sick, because fish don’t carry ebola, and nothing carries much of anything after it has been properly cooked.

    • NotTooSwift

      Yeah, and if they didn’t f**k monkeys, we would not be dealing with AIDS.

      • I think that was the result of eating uncooked monkey or ape meat. Someone attempting to screw a monkey would be horribly bitten and scratched, and wouldn’t try that again.

        I have a baboon skull at home, and this does not look like something I would want to mess with.

        • NotTooSwift

          I definitely will not screw another one. Once is enough!

  • Paleoconn

    This doctor left his patients in Manchester to treat these Africans. He should not be allowed back.

    But then, the way England is going, he probably treats the same kind of people back home.

  • Valmont

    (Early evening in Liberia)
    Vibrant Child: “What’s for dinner, mom?”
    Vibrant Mother: “Bat-A-Roni, dear.”
    Vibrant Child: “Not again!”

    • StillModerated

      They eat rats, too. Witness: www[dot]youtube[dot]com/watch?v=VG4g-zwEo98

  • ShermanTMcCoy

    I just can’t believe all the bigoted comments here from people too narrow-minded to believe in sorcery.

    I sure do! Blacks are a curse!

  • Ograf

    Come on you guys, we know and they know the truth. Of course one needs to see a witch doctor. I cannot rationalize as a moral man for the western people trying to impose their medical degrees on these people. Witchcraft is the only way.

  • StillModerated

    This just in from Freetown Sierra Leone. Ebola is not on the list yet. Notice the moslem name.

    • QS-Q

      Finally someone that can get rid of my Bush Devil! My dog could use some worming too!

  • QS-Q

    Africans likely don’t have the patience to cook properly, or don’t want to leave the meat unattended for someone else to steal.

  • none of your business

    I read that the woman who was removed from the clinic by her family was removed because the family believed that when she died the clinic workers would eat her.

  • none of your business

    One woman was removed from hospital by her relatives. Their reason was they feared the african medics would eat her when she died.