Across the African continent, according to the World Health Organization, there are about 80 times as many traditional healers as there are medical doctors. Millions of Africans consult healers but, studies suggest, usually do not admit it if they see doctors, too.
In Congo, doctors now fighting Ebola believe that many of their patients first get infected while visiting such healers. They may arrive at the home of someone like Mr. Muriisa [who the reporter visited in Uganda] with malaria, or even a cough or other minor problem, but then end up lying next to someone with undiagnosed Ebola.
In the 2014 West African outbreak, which infected more than 11,000 people, the death of a prominent healer was a crucial “super-spreader event,” linked to over 300 cases.
That healer, who lived in rural Sierra Leone, died after catching the virus from one of her patients. Hundreds of relatives and admirers came from many miles away for her funeral and helped wash her body, which was presumably teeming with virus.
They then returned to their homes in Guinea and Liberia, helping ignite the worst Ebola epidemic in history. [Continue reading…]