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How panic has deterred care for those who have Ebola

Debunking Ebola myths has proven to be as difficult as treating the disease itself.

“This is historic. It is truly epic,” Sarah Crowe, Crisis Communication Chief for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told Fusion at the Women In The World Texas conference held in San Antonio on October 22. “It requires a global response that we are not really seeing yet.”

Crowe recently returned to the US after spending 5 weeks in Liberia, one of the countries with the highest rates of Ebola. The disease has been transmitted in such high numbers, that it has forced a number of schools to completely shut down for the year. But what’s more concerning, Crowe says, is the fear that has led to rapid discrimination against individuals who are thought to have Ebola-like symptoms regardless of diagnosis.

“We need education so Liberians are not discriminated against,” Crow told the San Antonio crowd during her presentation on Wednesday. “It’s a test of our compassion and our humanity.”

But the widespread fear and strict country health guidelines around the world, has made it much more difficult to garner medical and non-profit support. Most importantly, fear that often comes with the disease has made it difficult to get health workers in the ground.

As of Oct 22, the World Health Organization reports there have been 9,936 cases of Ebola reported around the world, 4,877 of which resulted in death. UNICEF has now tapped into Ebola survivors as potential caregivers, given that they carry a sort of immunity for the deadly virus.

“A global disease like this knows no borders,” says Crowe. “ We are all impacted in one way or another by this disease and it really demands on us to be creative and courageous no matter where we are. If people have that fear, people will not go in and help.”

As for the rest of us in the United States, Crowe says, “It’s important to focus on the survivors because nearly half of those who do get sick can survive.” She continues, “Our message is the earliest you can get to a health facility and get help whether is here in the US or in Europe or the impacted countries the better it is. Most of the cases here have survived.”

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