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Too many of them die at home on the Ebola outbreak in Congo



BENI, Congo (AP) – Two-month-old Lahya Kathembo became an orphan one day. Her mother succumbed to Ebola on a Saturday morning. Her father died at sunset.

They had been ill for more than a week before health workers persuaded them to seek treatment, neighbors said. They believed that their illness was the work of people who were jealous of their newborn daughter, a community organizer said, seeking the guidance of a traditional spiritual healer. For the most part, because so many patients choose to stay home. In this way, they unknowingly infect caregivers and their mourners.

"People wait until the last minute to bring their family members, and when they do, it's complicated for us," says Mathieu Kanyama, director of health promotion at the Ebola treatment center in Beni, of the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) is operated. "There are doctors here, not wizards."

Nearly a year after the outbreak, which killed more than 1

,700 people and was declared a global health emergency this month, an increase in community deaths is causing a resurgence from Ebola in Beni. In July alone, 30 people died at home within two weeks.

Health teams are now going from door to door with megaphones to spread the message.

"Behind every person who dies, is someone who develops a fever," said Dr. Gaston Tshapenda, Head of the Ebola Response in Beni for the Ministry of Health in Congo, his teams.

Many people still do not believe that Ebola is real, health experts say, which inhibits efforts to control the disease is spreading.

Ebola symptoms are also similar to widespread killers such as malaria and typhoid fever. Therefore, those who are afraid to go to a treatment center often try to treat themselves with acetaminophen at home to relieve the fever.

These other illnesses require the patient to be isolated and kept away from the family.

Dr. Maurice Kakule, who was one of the first Ebola patients on the outbreak following treatment of a sick woman at his clinic, is now trying to help the sick in and around Beni near the border with Uganda.

] He and other survivors who are now immune to the disease are running a motorcycle taxi ambulance. After receiving a call for help, they go home, insure the sick, and seek medical care without infecting others.

The most common fear among people is that they only leave an Ebola treatment center in a body bag, says Kakule.

"Some have heard of the Ebola problem, but there were no survivors in their family," he said. "Since their relatives died in a treatment center, they believe that people are being killed there, and therefore they categorically refuse to go there."

They also fear that they will die alone, surrounded by medical personnel Under protection equipment is from head to toe.

To try to humanize the care of patients in isolation, ALIMA's Ebola Treatment Center in Beni places some patients in their own transparent room, a "CUBE" where they can see visitors from their beds. Others share a room with another patient and a glass window where relatives can gather.

While there is no approved treatment for Ebola, patients in eastern Congo can participate in clinical trials. This is a welcome relief from the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa when many patients entered Ebola Centers to never come out alive. More than 11,000 people died.

The measures needed to prevent the spread of Ebola are still difficult for many to accept.

"We must not forget that you have Ebola when you're sick. Somewhere outside of your family, with a 50% chance of dying to your loved ones alone," Dr. Joanne Liu, President of MSF, who is helping to fight the outbreak. "I do not blame people for not finding this attractive, even though we're conducting a clinical trial."

The day after the death of Baby Lahya's parents, a morgue team in protective clothing carried their carefully wrapped bodies to a mourning truck to a Muslim graveyard on the outskirts of the city.

In the background, workers hammered away as they built more space at the nearby treatment center to absorb the growing load.

Lahya has developed a fever but has tested negative for Ebola. The child with the round cheeks and the gold earrings is initially in an orphanage, while his 3-year-old sister is cared for by neighbors who both want to raise.

However, the sisters have to wait a little longer to be reunited – their adoptive father and their former nanny have both been tested positive for Ebola and are being treated.

The fateful decision to avoid treatment centers is tracking down survivors, such as the 24-year-old Asifia Kavira, who has contracted Ebola with eight of her relatives.

Health teams came to the house in Butembo to persuade them to get treatment. However, most of the family members said they wanted to treat their fevers at home. After three days of negotiations, Kavira finally agreed to seek help, believing she was on the brink of death.

She would be the only one who would survive.

Her mother, grandmother, brother and four other relatives died at home. An older sister came to her to the treatment center, but medical care came too late.

"I tell people now that Ebola exists," says Kavira, "because I lost my whole family."

___ [19659002] Associate Press Writer Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro in Beni, Congo and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.


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