In the slums of Monrovia, where the Ebola virus has spun out of control, health authorities have now provided citizens with a new version of the 10 commandments.
The alarming protocol speaks volumes about the deadly pace of an evolving epidemic that has unsettled West Africa, and will have global implications if the virus reaches the urban slums of India or China.
Given that barely 18 per cent of infected patients ever make it to a hospital, most Liberians now struggle or die with the disease at home. The sick die in pools of shit, vomit and blood.
The commandments reflect the elemental nature of transmission: the deadly virus is spread by contact with bodily fluids, everything from blood to semen. The hemorrhagic virus kills more than half of its victims.
To date, the epidemic and fear has changed all patterns of living. Schools and businesses are closed, and people stay at home. Citizens don’t shake hands, ride buses or join crowds. Armed robberies have increased and hunger has become another epidemic stalking the region.
Each morning the Red Cross Dead Body Management Team, looking like men from Mars, prays “for guidance, protection, and for God to make Ebola go away.”
U.S. researchers now estimate that the virus could infect more than a million people by January, 2015 if there are no effective ways to contain it.
To date, health authorities conservatively estimate more than 6,000 have been infected and more than 3,000 have died. But the epidemic is now growing exponentially.
The 10 Commandments of Ebola can be found on signs posted in poor communities such as West Point in Monrovia. The commandments have a medieval tone:
1. Thou shalt not HIDE ANY SICK person even family member or friend;
2. Thou shalt not SHAKE HAND or TOUCH someone with high fever who is very sick;
3. Thou shalt not TOUCH DEAD BODY even if it is your family member or friend who has died;
4. Thou shalt not PUT MAT DOWN for dead people not even your family member;
5. Thou shalt not EAT or DRINK from the same pan, place or cup with family member, friend or anybody.
6. Thou shalt not allow anybody even family friend to spend time (with the infected).
7. Thou shalt not HAVE SEX with strangers; be very careful of the person you have sex with, they could have the EBOLA virus — no sleeping around. Stick with the person you know very well.
8. Thou shalt not PEE PEE OUTSIDE, use a plastic bottle and wash your hands;
9. Thou shalt not TOILET OUTSIDE; use a plastic bag and wash your hands.
10. Thou shalt call this Telephone Number 4455 for Response Centre #1 right away when you have a sick person or a dead body in your house.