Northern Californians Help Stop Ebola

Northern Californians Help Stop Ebola

by the Rev. John Harris, Priest-in-Charge, St. Timothy's, Gridley

With the help of a donation of $12,000 from Northern Californian Rotarians and Episcopal Church members, a few brave Liberians initiated an education program, effectively denying Ebola access to their district of 17,000 and keeping it "Ebola free" throughout the epidemic. These fundraising efforts were spearheaded by the Rev. Dan Boeger, deacon at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church and a Gridley Rotary past-president.

The first few cases of Ebola were reported in March 2014. Just five months later, with the explosion of new cases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was predicting up to 1.4 million cases of Ebola in the following five months (1). Even in early November, a professor of infectious disease, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University's medical school said “I don't think there's going to be a huge outbreak here [in the US], no. However, as best we can tell right now, it is quite possible that every major city will see at least a handful of cases."(2)

The entire world expected the arrival of this terrible disease in their neighborhood and in their homes, perhaps quickly killing their family and themselves. Meanwhile, in Liberia, two Liberian senators went on national radio to say that Ebola was a hoax, it was not real and that corrupt officials in the Liberian Ministry of Health just wanted to raise funds that could be diverted into their pockets. With no Liberian television, with few personal radios and poor radio coverage, conflicting rumors abounded.

To combat these rumors and Ebola itself, an Ebola Prevention and Education program was started to educate those in remote villages. A few very brave health officials traveled over deep muddy roads into the rain forest to teach about Ebola. They taught that it is real and not a hoax, and that it is passed by contact with bodily fluids so bodily contact must be avoided. They further taught that Ebola can be killed by washing with chlorinated water and began providing personal protective equipment (PPE’s) of gloves, aprons, face masks, rubber boots, washing buckets and Clorox. That education changed the 1.4 million project Ebola deaths to ‘just’ 10,000 deaths in the region – and only one Ebola death in all of the United States. The Ebola Prevention and Education team wore t-shirts that said 'Ebola is Real!' The first step in education is to identify the problem as real. Tragically, one tribe traditionally washed their dead, saved the runoff water, and to honor the dead person either drank or rubbed themselves with the runoff. The runoff water sometimes contained the deadly Ebola virus.

With the quick donation of ‘just’ $12,000 from Northern Californian Rotarians and church members, and with risk to their own lives and deadly risk to the lives of their families, a team of Liberians, spearheaded by Augustus and Cecelia Flomo, put the Ebola Education and Prevention program into effect, perhaps saving over a million deaths and saving the spread of Ebola worldwide. This program was copied in other areas in Liberia. The attached graph shows Ebola cases leveling a few weeks after this education program started, even before arrival of most US government aid. US troops and technicians helped mop up the remaining Ebola in Liberia.



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