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Imagine surviving Ebola only to be shunned

Staff from Doctors Without Borders carry the body of an Ebola victim.
Staff from Doctors Without Borders carry the body of an Ebola victim.
SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

The Ebola virus, which is resurgent in West Africa, is almost always fatal. At least 145 people have died in the recent outbreak, mostly in Guinea. But a lucky few survive — only to be shunned upon their recovery by a society that refuses to believe they're no longer contagious.

"Thanks be to God, I am cured. But now I have a new disease: the stigmatization that I am a victim of," a Guinean doctor who survived Ebola told The Associated Press. "This disease is worse than the fever." The doctor refused to give his name "for fear of further problems the publicity would cause him and his family."

Terror of the disease — and confusion about how to protect against it — can manifest itself in more dangerous ways than ostracization. In Liberia, homes of some of the infected have been attacked, and in Guinea, Doctors Without Borders had to temporarily abandon a clinic that was under threat.

Health workers are trying to reduce the stigma against Ebola survivors through their own example. Corinne Benazech, a representative in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, told the AP that "The patient never leaves alone," and health workers make a show of shaking hands with survivors as they leave the isolation ward. The country's minister of health also awards patients a certificate stating that they are no longer contagious. The one exception is a male patient's semen, where the virus can linger even after recovery, so men who survive Ebola are given a three-month supply of condoms.

Read more at the Associated Press.