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Life on the Edge of Ebola's Hot Zone

Life on the Edge of Ebola's Hot Zone

In The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country, located perilously closely to the affected territories, uncertainty is growing. Walk-in centers at its two hospitals remain full, spilling over with patients who, if Ebola hit the area, would be turned away with nowhere to go.

Elsewhere, in the country’s buses—cabs or minivans that skid along its sandy roads—the radio announces the latest deaths caused by the disease. The air is thick with a certain pondering about the damage it could cause should it reach here. Nobody brings up the virus, but when news surrounding it is announced, quiet reigns. With a population of less than 2 million people, an infection as deadly as this one could cause unprecedented problems—particularly as the government is yet to introduce any precautionary measures whatsoever. The threat of Ebola is incredibly real, and though mostly unspoken, it is a concern for many across The Gambia.

With the Ebola epidemic gripping Western Africa tighter than ever before, the need to stop the deadly disease spreading has never been more important. And, with frequent reports emerging of sufferers being stopped at the borders of other countries, containing it is crucial. Nearly 900 people across four countries have already fallen victim to the disease. Though the main crisis areas remain in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, several doctors treating those infected have either contracted the virus—or died as a result of it—in a matter of weeks.

Controlling the problem has proved to be an as yet impossible task, but there have also been troubling tales of sufferers attempting to cross borders closer to home. Ebola testing has been ramped up in both the US and Europe, with travellers flying in from Western Africa being subjected to health checks at airports. After American economist Patrick Sawyer contracted the disease in Liberia and subsequently flew to Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria (where he died days later), running the risk of infecting those he encountered en route, security is rightfully tightening around people flying in from countries close to the epidemic.

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