Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Tuesday Night Numbers-Still in Bundibugyo
Dueling posts? Jennifer has posted this evening from Kampala because she flew out of Bundibugyo with MAF this afternoon to re-join our kids, capitalizing on her first opportunity in 14 years to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Flight protocol states the plane must be loaded heaviest in front, so Jennifer has always been relegated to the rear with the small kids. As the only passenger on today's return leg to Kampala, she had no competition for the premium seat.
This evening's District Ebola Task Force Meeting revealed a continuing tapering of the epidemic...
- Cumulative Cases: 128
- Cumulative Deaths: 34 (CFR = 26.6%)
- Current Admissions: Bundibugyo Hospital 4 ; with no new admissions, 1 discharge, and no deaths. Kikyo also with 4 inpatients; 2 new admissions, 3 discharges and no deaths. Of the 8 currently admitted to the Isolation Wards, they hope that 6 might be discharged tomorrow.
- Contacts: 535 have been listed with 426 actively followed (the remainder finished their 21 day waiting period--the Jonah family will hit their 21 day goal tomorrow). 85.2% of the contact list were visited today, a huge and punishing task in the unrelenting sunshine today.
The most intense discussion of the evening again revolved around the issue of "traditional healers" , also known as "herbalists", "traditional herbalists", "alternative practitioners","witch doctors" or "jujus". The lines between these practitioners seem indistinct, and in fact, they appear to jump back and forth between the roles depending on circumstances. Hundreds of these healers prescribe their concoctions of locally gathered substances (77 different tree sources) in drinkable teas, smearable pastes, or otherwise unspeakably applied mixtures for all sorts of common illnesses...and now they are taking credit for the successful treatment of Ebola patients.
Where does the Task Force draw the line between challenging engagement versus tacit endorsement? Clearly, this group is out in the community on the front line of caring for people with illness and cannot be ignored. However, their practices and pharmaceuticals have not been scientifically studied and cannot be endorsed. They commonly make small incisions to "let bad blood out" and to promote the absorption of their smeared herbs, a practice that could put them at extremely high risk of contracting Ebola themselves or promoting the transmission of the virus to others. Thankfully, reason prevailed and the Task Force unanimously agreed today that this group should be strongly discouraged from treating any Ebola patients. Whether they can be convinced is an entirely different question.