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Photo of the Day: From Ebola Survivor to Red Cross volunteer

"I almost died," says Saa Sabas (L), a Guinean man who survived the Ebola virus disease. He now volunteers with the Red Cross educating communities on how to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Photo: Idrissa Soumaré, afreecom 

When the Ebola virus first hit Guinea two months ago, many people didn’t realize it was the deadly haemorrhagic fever. With symptoms such as fever, aches, muscle weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea, it was similar to many other viruses, plus Ebola had never been detected in Guinea so people and medical staff were not familiar with the disease.

Saa Sabas volunteered to take care of his sick parent who was hospitalized at the local health centre.
Because of his close contact with an infected person, and because he was not wearing personal protection equipment like gloves, masks and goggles, Saa Sabas eventually became infected with the Ebola virus. Ebola is not airborne and can only be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body secretions from an infected or deceased person. This means that people in close contact are at higher risk of infection.

He was transferred quickly to the Ebola treatment centre set up in Guéckédou. The early symptomatic treatment he received, combined with his fighting spirit to stay alive, paid off.

When he returned home, instead of being welcomed, Saa Sabas was stigmatized. His neighbours thought he was still contagious.

With a team of volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Guinea, Saa Sabas is now visiting communities, raising awareness of how to prevent the spread of the disease, to allay some of the fear and rumours, as well as to combat the ignorance about this dangerous disease.

“I am one of them and I can talk to them in a language they understand. Who else is better placed than me to tell them about Ebola?” he asks. “Ebola exists and will continue to decimate members of my community if we don’t act urgently. Many people have already died, that is why I participate in the sensitization activities. I urge people to go the isolation and treatment centres if they experience the earliest symptoms of the disease, to increase their chance of being cured and surviving.”

Canadians can support Red Cross efforts by donating to the West Africa Ebola Fund.
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