jueves, 5 de marzo de 2015

The path of the Ebola virus outbreak

A look at how Ebola spread far beyond Meliandou, Guinea in just a few months, through a New York Times video.

Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students. You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript.

  1. When did the first victim of Ebola die?
  2. What’s the distance between Meliandou and Guéckedou?
  3. How many people have died across the region within weeks?
  4. How do families cross from Guinea to Liberia?
  5. What do clinics lack in this part of the world?
  6. What happened on March 21st?
  7. Why did some international organizations relax their operations?

This is Meliandou, a small village tucked into the forest of south-eastern Guinea. It is home to a few dozen families. It has no electricity and no running water. Here, in (1) December 2013, a one-year-old boy named Amil is thought to be the first victim of the Ebola outbreak. By the end of March eleven people would have died in the village.
The boy’s grandmother is linked to two people from the nearby village of Dawa, who get the disease. A relative of Meliandou’s midwife takes Ebola to yet another village, Dandou Pombo. (2) It takes about thirty minutes to drive on a dirt road from Meliandou to the largest town nearby Guéckedou. The midwife is taken to a hospital there. In Guéckedou a health worker also becomes ill and is taken to Macenta. Soon after, a doctor dies there. The doctor is buried in Kissidougou. (3) Within weeks more than sixty people will have died across the region.
The outbreak starts at the intersection of three of the poorest countries in the world. The area is home to the Kissi ethnic group. There are few official border crossings from Guéckedou into the neighbouring country of Liberia, but extended families cross easily (4) by foot and dug-out canoe. I this part of the world the few existing clinics and hospitals often lack (5) running water and hand soap. The region had little familiarity with Ebola since nearly all of the previous outbreaks were in Central Africa.
Making matters worse, Ebola symptoms resemble endemic diseases in West Africa like malaria, cholera and Lawson fever.
By February people connected to the first patient’s family are thought to have died in Conakry and in Kekehou, Sierra Leone. This indicates that the virus probably travelled far and crossed borders early in the outbreak. (6) But the first confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea came only on March 21st. Days later an Ebola case is confirmed in the capital, Conakry, a city of more than 11/2 million people.
Still, (7) reports of new infections decline in late April, a statistical plateau that resembles the historical outbreaks that burnt out after a few months. Some international health organizations began to relax their operations. Meanwhile, weak contact tracing and local suspicion towards foreigners and national authorities allows the disease to spread outside the clinics.
Ultimately the virus resurfaces. In Sierra Leone, unconfirmed cases of people dying in the village of Kpondu with Ebola-like symptoms start as early as March. But the first confirmed case comes only in late May. In July Ebola is confirmed in Freetown, the capital. The patient is a woman living in a Kissi neighbourhood of the city. At this point, the outbreak is surging out of control.