A poster in Sierra Leone’s crumbling coastal capital Freetown proclaims a message from an Ebola survivor called Sulliaman: “I feel 100 percent healthy!” Another beaming survivor Juliana says: “I am one of the safest people to be around!”
Throughout the two-year Ebola epidemic, thousands of West African survivors have been shunned by their communities, prompting governments to sponsor messages stressing their complete recovery in a bid to counter fear and paranoia.
But the case of Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey – the first known Ebola survivor to have an apparently life-threatening relapse – has revived concerns about the health of some 17,000 survivors in Sierra Leone, neighboring Guinea and Liberia.
Doctors and health officials in Sierra Leone told Reuters that a handful of mystery deaths among discharged patients may also be types of Ebola relapses, stirring fear that the deadly virus may last far longer than previously thought in the body, causing other potentially lethal complications.
Diagnoses have not been made, partly because of a lack of relevant medical training and insufficient equipment for detecting a virus that can hide in inaccessible corners of the body – such as the spinal fluid or eyeball. In Cafferkey’s case, the virus in her brain caused meningitis. (Read more from “Mystery Deaths in Sierra Leone Spread Fear of Ebola Relapses” HERE)