Out of the almost 1,000 Ebola victims, some of the most vulnerable are the medical workers on the front line. They know the risks, yet sacrifice their lives to help others. Despite the outbreak, more Americans are lining up for medical missions to Africa.
As of August 4, there have been 516 infections and 282 Ebola deaths in Liberia. The New York Times reported in Liberia 64 health workers were infected, including 23 at one hospital. More than 30 of the infected died, which is over 10% of the total victims. In Sierra Leone, 691 people are infected and 286 people died. A total of 50 workers in the country died of Ebola. In Kenema, more than 20 people perished at one hospital. One of the victims was the nation’s top Ebola professional, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan.
The numbers are growing, but once again Americans show the world the country is the most charitable. Deaths are not stopping medical professionals from boarding a plane to Africa.
“I think of it this way: If we have a dangerous war going on at a distant shore, our soldiers don’t say ‘Hey, we’re scared, we’re not gonna go,'” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, director of infection control at Boston University, who will head to Sierra Leone with 50 doctors. “I have a healthy amount of fear and respect, but that fear is tempered by my knowledge about this pathogen and by my background and training.”
Jo Weddle completed her surgical residency at Baylor and will travel to Cameroon for four months. Ebola is in Nigeria, which neighbors Cameroon, but Weddle is not scared.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging. But there are a lot of portions of the world that need a tremendous amount of help.”
“It’s still a really important part of being a physician,” Weddle continued. “Everyone who goes to med school says what they really want to do is give back. This is a great opportunity to do that.”
Most people do not realize doctors in many fields travel to third-world countries to provide poor people with medical care. Dentists and hygienists from Oklahoma City travel to Bolivia with Friends of Bolivia in May every year to offer people dental care. Other doctors team up with organizations Doctors Without Borders, Faith in Action, and Christian Medical & Dental Association (CMDA). From USA Today:
At a CMDA training session last week, one female doctor was readying to go to the same hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where Brantly contracted the virus, said David Stevens, a family practice physician and CMDA’s chief executive. The group has recently seen a steep rise in the number of medical students signing up for missions abroad, he said.
“In no respect has it deterred the general enthusiasm and fervor of people ready to go,” said Faith in Action Director Don Sewell. “People are still making plans to go.”