We hear more and more about the scary virus Ebola every day! As an organization with 250 children connected to us in one of the countries that has been hit the hardest with this deadly virus, we are constantly being asked questions about the virus and what can be done to help.
Ebola is a very deadly disease, but it does not have to be. Ebola is spread through human-to-human transmissions via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people. Ebola has severely affected countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia because they have very weak health systems and are unable to maintain proper infection control procedures. There is also a lot of fear because of a lack of education about the virus, so hospitals are closed or health workers are attacked. A key to fighting this deadly virus is to teach good hygiene and to provide safe hospitals where those infected can be treated.
Our contacts in Liberia include the Public Relations/Media Director of the Vice President of Liberia and the recently nominated national Pastor of Liberia, as well as the families of ICN sponsored children and our former Matsiko children. According to these contacts on the ground in Liberia, the virus has been such a HUGE problem because of the panic surrounding the disease. Once the epidemic started, the government offices, businesses and hospitals were shut down in fear of Ebola being brought in from the bush/border villages. Because of this, people who are sick from malaria or other diseases have nowhere to turn to for medical help. Their deaths are being attributed to Ebola. Additionally, families and even villages have been quarantined out of fear, and they are then left to fend for themselves, which has led to starvation in many cases. People who visit outlying villages may not be allowed back to their homes because of the fear that they may have come into contact with the virus while they were away from home. Some children are then left at home to fend for themselves, without food or other resources, while their parents are quarantined for no real reason. As a result of the panic and fear in Liberia, many people are lacking medicine and money to buy food, especially because the food prices are now very inflated.
The ICN Center in Liberia has been open throughout the entire epidemic, and is providing food, art programs, choir practice and after school studies. We have not come into contact with ANYONE infected with Ebola. In fact, we have yet to find anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone with the virus! In order to contain this virus, the Liberian people need to go back to work in order to make money to buy food. Additionally, the hospitals need to reopen so that there is a safe place for people to seek treatment where the infection can be controlled.
We have been asked many times if anyone is in danger of being exposed to Ebola through the Matsiko kids here in the US. The answer to this is a resounding NO! We do have 4 children and 1 adult from Liberia travelling with our choir, and they have all been in the United States since July, with NO contact with anyone in Liberia since that time. They were all tested before they left Liberia, and they were all seen by a doctor in Sandpoint, ID in August. None of them have shown any signs of sickness at all in the time they have been in the US. Ebola is not a disease that lies dormant for long periods of time and then suddenly attacks. The incubation period of Ebola is at the most 21 days, which means it can take up to 21 days from infection for symptoms of the disease to present themselves. Humans are not contagious until they develop symptoms. Since all of our Matsiko members have been out of Liberia for more than 21 days, there is no way any of them are carrying the disease or are contagious in any way. The only way they could contract the virus now would be by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of another person infected with Ebola.
ICN is raising money for food and medicine for those affected by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. 100% of any money given to this cause goes directly to meeting these needs in Liberia. Matsiko is currently in Southern California, and the children are excited to be able to help raise money to feed those in Liberia by making and selling bracelets at their performances.