Last Saturday morning, my friend Julie and I went running. Not surprisingly, the topic du jour as we trotted along was the recently confirmed first case of Ebola in Senegal. While she and I both grew up in Africa as MKs, both are from the Atlanta area in the US and both moved to Senegal with our families a couple years ago… The similarities kind of grind to a halt when you Google her and see the amazing work she does fighting diseases as a medical epidemiologist.

Julie is a resident adviser with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Julie is a resident adviser with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Below is an update she wrote on the current situation in Senegal and what we can expect in the future, as well as what we can do to help.

On August 29, Senegal confirmed a case of Ebola in a Guinean student who had come to Dakar from Guinea following the funeral of his brother, who had died of Ebola. In the 10 days since, the Senegalese government has responded very actively, identifying all his household contacts and health care workers who had come into contact with him, asking them to stay at home, and having teams visit each contact twice daily to monitor for development of symptoms. They have put together a Crisis Management Committee and numerous sub-commissions all charged with various aspects of the response that meet daily, and have been meeting with external financial and technical partners as well to mobilize resources and coordination.

The World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, and numerous other organizations are supporting Senegal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has sent a team to support the Ministry of Health. All are very impressed by the response of the Senegalese government and believe Senegal is in a good position to handle the threat of Ebola well.

Things to know about Ebola:

1) Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, profound weakness, and general pain.

2) People who are not symptomatic are not infectious.

3) If a person who is ill with Ebola is identified and given supportive care early on, it increases the chances of survival.

4) If the contacts of a person with Ebola are all identified and followed carefully, and isolated at the first sign of symptoms, the chance of it spreading further are near zero.

As long as there is Ebola in surrounding countries, there will very likely be more imported cases of Ebola in Senegal. This is not a failure. Success is identifying, isolating, and caring for people with Ebola, identifying and following all their contacts, and preventing transmission beyond their immediate contacts. Ebola gets out of control when people are scared, lie about their contacts, or refuse to allow teams to visit them daily (or flee).

We need to speak out against fear, and to help people understand that it’s so important to tell health care workers if there are any contacts that may have had Ebola or any travel to an affected country in the past three weeks.

Julie Thwing MD
CDC Senegal

Please join us in praying against fear, for people to tell the truth about their travel and contacts, for wisdom and stamina for health workers, for good communication and coordination for all the partners in this fight, and for miraculous blocking of infection. Thank you.

(And thank you, Julie!)