Family, friends of UCF students face Ebola woes
More than 5,000 miles away, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa sits on the other side of the planet. However, concern for the fatal virus disease is spreading closer to home.
The epidemic has already claimed the lives of more than 3,000, with possibly 1.4 million more in its path, the World Health Organization told the Wall Street Journal.
On Sept. 30, the CDC announced the first Ebola case in the United States, which was diagnosed in Dallas.
Due to the magnitude of the situation, UCF Health Services sent out an Ebola advisory cautioning students against unnecessary travel to several West African countries.
"We felt it was our duty to alert them to the potential risks," said Dr. Michael Deichen, director of UCF Health Services, who cautioned students to take the disease — which has a 50 percent mortality rate — very seriously.
Some UCF students and faculty members still have family and friends who reside in parts of Africa, and their concerns are growing, along with the outbreak's death toll.
Dr. Obi Nwakanma, a Nigerian professor at UCF's English Department, lost his friend Dr. Stella Adadevoh to the disease last month.
Adadevoh died on Aug. 19 after contracting the virus from a Liberian traveler.
Although Forbes recently reported that Nigeria was Ebola-free and the last patient had been released from the mandatory 21-day surveillance period, Nwakanma says the fight is not over.
"There's still a high number of Nigerians in Liberia," he said.
Liberia, a country the size of West Virginia, has been hit the hardest, with 1,700 new cases of Ebola having been reported by the World Health Organization in the last month.
Wanjiku "Jiku" Mwangi, a junior cinema studies major, worries about her mother, who moved back to her native Kenya once Jiku and her sister were old enough to support themselves.
"I feel like if it was a different country, it would have been more viciously attacked," she said.
Part of the problem, she says, is the skepticism that comes with donating money online.
"I get iffy about giving money over the Internet," Mwangi said. "I want to, but I don't know how to help or what I could do."
Nwakanma shares Mwangi's views on charitable donations.
"You can raise all the money you want, but you also need context," he said. "Don't just throw money at a very complex situation."
Nwakanma believes that the solution to Ebola lies within West Africa.
"When human beings are confronted by stark realities, they are pushed to their own solutions," he said. "There is a lethargy about the African crisis in global communities, so Africans need to look inward. They must mobilize their local resources."
With several medical facilities in the region and organizations such as the Association of Nigerian Physicians, the tools for success are there, but the chaotic state hinders progress. In early September, two patients from Liberia were transported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and treated with the experimental drug ZMapp.
Prior to the first reported case of ebola in the U.S., Deichen said such an occurrence would be contained very quickly.
Still, he advises UCF students to take precautions to protect themselves against the virus, which has no known cure.