Ebola in DRC: ‘Madame has fallen ill’
“My name is Maurice and I am 34 years old, married to my wife Espérance. We have one son, Ebenezer. I currently work as a general physician at the Referral Health Center in Mangodomu, in the Mangina health area, but my family lives in Beni [some 30km away].
Recently the outbreak in Itipo [DRC’s Equateur Province] reminded people that Ebola exists in the country. Many people still associate the virus with death, but on the other hand, people here did not feel vulnerable, because we thought it was a disease of the West and the South of the country. So it was a complete surprise when Ebola broke out for the first time in Mabalako health zone. At present, some of the population still thinks of it as a mystical disease.
It was on July 12, while working at the referral health center in Mangodomu, that I developed some Ebola-like symptoms, such as fever, chills and a headache. In the area, a family of 9 people had recently died of similar symptoms, but nobody thought about the Ebola Virus Disease. I did not even think I could have Ebola. I thought it was a serious case of malaria. I was treated for my symptoms and eventually I recovered.
But then in August, my wife got sick, experiencing similar symptoms. She was admitted to the Oicha’s General Hospital. Based on her symptoms and the recent declaration of the Ebola outbreak, a health worker signalled her case to the surveillance team in Beni, and she was transferred to ALIMA’s Ebola Treatment Center, on August 20, where she was immediately tested for Ebola. The results were positive.
Since her admission, she has been receiving daily medical care, including the compassionate use of an approved experimental drug, from the medical team, which is overseen by ALIMA.
Myself and my son were also tested for the virus and I was hospitalised in Beni for 3 days. Results showed we were negative for Ebola, but that I had been exposed to the virus at one time. During my hospitalisation, I was very happy to be able to see my son through the walls of the CUBE [ALIMA’s innovative biosecure emergency care unit for outbreaks]. It gave me strength and hope, and now, it is doing the same for my wife.
Our family back home is quite concerned about the fate of Espérance. Everyone is scared because ‘Madame has fallen ill.’ Many of them are afraid to come visit her. I also worry about the other children in the family, whether they will also fall ill. Fortunately, everyone in contact with her has been vaccinated now. And Espérance is getting better each day. Hopefully soon she can be discharged. Perhaps one day, I too can treat patients suffering from Ebola.”
ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) has been active in DRC since 2011. Our teams most recently responded to an outbreak of Ebola in Itipo, in the Equateur province, where we set up a 18-bed treatment center. More than 20 patients suspected of having Ebola received care.
Unlike many other Ebola Treatment Centers, where patients are isolated in multi-bed tents, thanks to ALIMA’s innovative CUBE, a biosecure emergency care unit for outbreaks of highly-infectious diseases, such as Ebola, family members of sick patients can remain in contact with their loved ones during treatment.
*This project in Beni is made possible thanks to generous funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO).