I don't know when I have been so scared, so terrified.
There have been reports of Lassa fever in the village upon where I am serving, doing the Lord's work. Several people in this village have come down with puzzling symptoms, and it appears that the fever is spreading among families.
Over ten people have died already, which means that this fever is quickly becoming epidemic. The latest deaths occurred in one family just up the way from where I am staying: a mother, her unborn child, and an older child all succumbed to the disease.
Basically, they bled to death. They didn't have the means to get to a hospital or a medical facility as quickly as possible.
The people of which I am trying to minister to are mainly poor, black; most are young with very small children; often, families live together in cramped, unsanitary conditions. Rats and other vermin run rampant; I see them or hear them scurrying in the night, and even in broad daylight. The stench of urine, garbage, feces, and only God knows what else hangs heavily in the hot African air.
Even though it is fall on the calendar, it feels more like the middle of summer, even at night. It is ungodly hot here in Liberia, which is where I am doing my missionary work.
I have been here for a year; have several more to go before the Lord tells me to move on.
Lassa fever is a hemorrhagic fever; when one thinks of Lassa fever, thoughts of the Ebola virus come to mind. It is similar to that, in the way it affects a person. The person starts bleeding from their mouth, nose, and other orifaces, develops a high fever, with severe prostration/weakness, conjunctuvitis, nausea/vomiting (bloody), constipation or diarrhea (bloody), difficulty in swallowing, hepatitis, periocarditis, hypotension (or hypertension), tachycardia (rapid heart rate), cough/chest pains, dyspnea (difficult breathing), pleuritis or pneumonia, even encephalitis or meningitis and seizures.
There is treatment in the form of blood transfusions, the administration of a drug called Rivavirin, fluid replacement, and fighting the effects of high (or low) blood pressure, but many of the people who get sick here are desperately poor and cannot afford treatment, so they end up suffering and dying needlessly. It is a very tragic situation, such as in the case of the mother, her unborn baby, and the older child.
Whenever anyone comes in contact with an infected person, they have to wear protective clothing (gowns, masks, even goggles, gloves), and all bodily fluids must be disposed of immediately and quickly. People must also take precaution to keep rats out of their homes and out of their food supplies, which isn't easy in this underdeveloped nation. The sanitary conditions here are deplorable at best.
What is also troubling about this Lassa fever epidemic is this: whenever a woman who happens to be pregnant acquires the disease, the baby must be aborted in order to save the life of the stricken mother. The baby would have a very poor chance of surviving, even if the mother was treated, and it would end up killing both of them in the process. And people who get the disease suffer horribly.
I just pray I don't get it ...
*to be continued.*