Ebola outbreak: Reporter struggles to ‘keep a distance’ as virus kills his people
The Ebola clinic stands in a hospital compound in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a day’s drive from the regional capital Goma but close to home for Reuters TV cameraman Djaffar Al Katanty.
He grew up in the region that has become the epicenter of the world’s second worst recorded outbreak of the deadly viral disease on record. At the last count at least 1,477 people have died and cases have cropped up in neighboring Uganda.
“We were seeing people dying day after day. Children being taken away to be buried and ambulances arriving with new cases … This is my people who are dying,” says Katanty.
On this trip, he is visiting a frontline clinic in the border town of Beni with Reuters photographer Baz Ratner and reporter Alessandra Prentice to record the full impact of Ebola and gather data on its spread.
They interview an elderly man who dabs his eyes with a frayed handkerchief as he describes how his granddaughter fell ill then succumbed days later to the hemorrhagic fever. His voice is barely a whisper.
One of the cruelest features of the Ebola infection is the ease with which the virus can spread through contact. Friends, family and medical staff have learned the drill to minimize the chance of that happening. So have Reuters’ reporters.
Nobody shakes hands. Nobody embraces in greeting or farewell. There are disinfectant sprays at the entrance and exit.
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“It is painful to talk to people who are suffering but not to be able to reach out to them,” Katanty says. “It hurts to see people suffering … and to have to keep a distance.”
Ebola continues to spread
Authorities revealed on Tuesday an newly confirmed case just 70 kilometres from the South Sudan border involved the contact of a known Ebola case in Beni town.
The person was supposed to stay in regular contact with Congolese health authorities during the 21-day incubation period.
The development is troubling as South Sudan’s health care system is less equipped to handle Ebola should cases develop there.
Two people died last month in Uganda after a family that sickened in Congo returned home across the border.
-With files from The Associated Press
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