Then come profuse bleeding, circulatory shock and
But for Rose Komano, the hiccups never came. On Saturday, the
18-year-old mother of three became the first victim to have beaten
the disease in the region of Gueckedou, epicenter of the Ebola
outbreak in this impoverished West African nation.
In total, 98 people are thought to have died from the disease in
Guinea and 10 more in neighboring Liberia, according to aid workers
A market town of 220,000 people near the Liberia and Sierra Leone
borders, Gueckedou's makeshift clinic is on the front line of
Guinea's battle to contain its first outbreak of the hemorrhagic
fever, normally found in Central Africa.
Medecins sans Frontières (MSF), a medical charity working to contain
the virus, has set up two tin-roofed tents in the courtyard of the
local health centre. One is for suspected Ebola cases and the other
is for confirmed cases.
Now, to the delight of the overworked medical staff, they are
building a third tent — for survivors.
"When I first saw the medical staff around me in yellow and black, I
was scared. I thought I was going to die," said Komano, who buried
her mother and grandmother days earlier after they died from the
"I didn't believe I would recover my health again. I was scared that
I would orphan my children — like my mother did me — but now I can
hold them in my arms again," she said.
Eight people have now recovered from the Ebola virus, according to
medical tests. The virulent Zaire strain of the disease in Guinea
has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
Lucky genes and intensive medical care helped Komano become one of
the handful to escape death. Other patients were cleared to go home
from the Donko hospital in Conakry last week in what the World
Health Organization (WHO) dubbed "Lazarus" cases — after the
Biblical figure restored to life by Jesus.
Komano's 12-year-old niece and her sister are also recovering as the
levels of virus in their blood fall.
But for this family, living in a remote part of Guinea where
traditional beliefs are held in high regard, the real battle may
have only just begun.
[to top of second column]
CHOCOLATE, NESCAFE AND RAW ONIONS
In past outbreaks, the sick were abandoned by their families or just
dropped off at the isolation wards. If you survived, nobody would talk to you or
touch you, said Ella Watson-Stryker, in charge of health promotion for MSF in
"Ebola disease transmission is not understood at a biological
level in remote villages across Africa where people believe in
witchcraft and traditional medicine," she said.
"It's sad because people really do want some sort of magic potion
or cure but unfortunately all we can tell them to do is wash their
hands," Watson-Stryker said.
SMS messages circulating in the country claimed that a Guinean
medical researcher in Senegal has found the cure for Ebola — hot
chocolate, Nescafe, milk, sugar and raw onions taken once a day for
three days. In nearby Macenta, an angry mob attacked an MSF clinic,
accusing the Organization of bringing the deadly virus to their
town, forcing it to shut down.
The MSF team has been helping to educate people on how the
disease spreads and how it can be prevented. The team is starting to
reintegrate patients who have survived the virus.
"We try to make sure that everyone understands once someone is no
longer sick, they really cannot continue to spread the disease,"
said Watson-Stryker, noting fewer people were asking their staff
about witchcraft than at the start of the outbreak.
For Komano, the initial signs are good. When she returns to her
village, her family and friends cheer loudly and come out to hug
her, a considerable leap of faith in a country where many people are
now too afraid to shake hands.
"I feel much better and I'm ready to go home. There's laundry to be
done and I need to clean the house," she said.
(Editing by Daniel Flynn and Gareth Jones)
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