Irish hero helps to battle Ebola outbreak
Published 05/08/2014 | 11:48
Irishman Damien Queally is in West Africa coordinating an emergency response to the world's biggest ever outbreak of the deadly virus.
Mr Queally, who works for the charity Plan Ireland as its deputy regional manager in West Africa, explained that many of the local people still believe that it is witchcraft at work.
"I was in Guinea when the first outbreak broke and initially we didn't know what was going on.
"The results came back when we were still in the country," he told the Herald.
"Now you have locals thinking it's witchcraft with the constant bleeding out of the nose, ears and eyes at the latter stage of the virus.
"They're also afraid to go to the health centres because those that do go already have the virus and only four out of ten are leaving.
"So people are choosing traditional medicine.
"I've heard stories of where health centres have been attacked because people think the virus is coming from the health centre itself," he added.
"It is creating huge panic and anxiety."
The first rumoured case was in Guinea last February but it was not confirmed until the end of March.
On top of the 887 deaths, there are now 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus in West Africa and there are also three confirmed cases in Nigeria.
"If an outbreak occurred in Lagos in Nigeria, the country would have to be sealed," said the Plan Ireland worker.
The 38-year-old Clare man, who left a steady bank job in Dublin in 2001 to go volunteering and never went back, said that very few of his experiences can compare as being so frightening.
"The only thing that was scarier was in Darfur at night when you would be listening out for gunshots and counting them and seeing if they were coming in from both sides," Mr Queally said.