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Superstition complicates fight against Ebola in Africa [Letter]

A recent report that a runaway Sierre Leone Ebola patient had been located but died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital is good news for the wrong reasons. Maybe this incident will help members of the community understand that Ebola is not a gimmick aimed at carrying out "cannibalistic rituals."

As a Nigerian-American who spent most of my adolescence in Nigeria, I am not surprised at the mistrust of health care workers or at the misconceptions surrounding the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.

Unfortunately, superstition is part of everyday life in Africa. Some of the superstitions I heard growing up were "never put your pocketbook on the floor, or else you'll be broke," or "if you dream of fish, someone will have a baby," or "the first year of life, don't cut a baby's hair" and so on.

To stop this deadly virus from spreading, West African health officials need to educate members of the community about Ebola. They also need to equip people in rural areas with gloves to take care of infected patients and to handle animals, which are some of the preventive measures listed on the World Health Organization's website.

At the rate Africa's economy is growing, it is to be hoped that sometime in the near future Africa will no longer be so deeply immersed in superstition.

Oby Nwaogbe

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