It has been about 4 months now and we continue to see new cases of measles everyday. The red eyes and rash on their bodies are a dead give away of the illness. So is the fever, the croupy cough, the history of them not eating, having high fevers and some diarrhea. It seems more common than malaria or typhoid - which used to be some of the most common things I would see in kids. Thankfully, the kids and adults who have malaria are doing well. Yes, some of our kids have died with measles, but very few, compared to all those who have gotten measles. They usually have stayed in the hospital for 1-3 days, get some IV fluid, get oxygen if they need it and then they go home. They feel really bad for 7-10 days and then are okay.
A measles epidemic is serious, but not as serious or as deadly as the Ebola outbreak which is happening in Africa right now. Just this week, a doctor (Dr. Kent Brantly read about it here) who went to Liberia through the same program that sent me to Papua New Guinea (Samaritan's Purse Post Residency Program), has contacted the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola is a hemorrhagic disease, causing bleeding, that can't be stopped, and it is so contagious many who come in contact with an infected person will get it themselves and then typically have a 90% chance of dying themselves. Thankfully, this outbreak's mortality rate is less, but 60% is still not the best.
As a physician, you know that you will come in contact with many deadly diseases, but through precautions, through knowledge of how the disease is transmitted you take precautions to decrease the risk of acquiring it yourself. Everyday, I come in contact with patients who have HIV, TB, diarrhea, pneumonia, typhoid and now measles, yet I don't think much of it. I am not scared or concerned about getting those diseases, knowing that if I did get one of those there are medicines to treat them. That isn't the case with Ebola. Ebola has no medicine to treat it once you get it, just supportive therapy and everyone around you has on a protective mask and hood to prevent them from getting the disease. Even with the protective suits, obviously there is still risk, as now a nurse in Liberia also has contracted Ebola (read here).
Pray for this man and woman, who have given their lives to serve and now find themselves as the victims. Pray for their families who, I can only imagine, are asking why this happened and wondering what will happen next. Pray also for the other victims of this outbreak - other medical professionals, the men and women of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the over 1000 of them who have contracted Ebola and their families who are suffering and are wondering if they will get sick themselves. This outbreak is far from over, pray for all those who will be continuing to care for these patients and for the patients themselves.