Is the Ebola Virus Hiding in the Eyes of the Epidemic’s Survivors? – The Atlantic

Some West Africans who have beat the deadly disease are now going blind—and doctors, unsure if treatment would unleash the virus back into the population, are powerless to help them.

Exactly one year after the physician and Ebola survivor Ian Crozier woke from his coma, I met him at an immunology conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he’d been invited to present a case study of himself.

For Crozier’s interview, I’d secured a key to the hotel’s only available meeting space, the elegant “Mahogany Boardroom,” with the promise of not touching a thing. Within seconds, Crozier was doodling on the dry-erase board walls, chattering about how much he “just loved these things” back in medical school. He spun in an armchair, his 6-foot-5 frame hunched, his tousled hair shifting on his forehead; his demeanor was oddly boyish for someone who had just grappled with death.

But Crozier’s post-Ebola symptoms lingered. He fiddled with the recline lever to ease his back pain; he’d pause mid-sentence, mutter ‘dammit,’ then squint his eyes, searching his slippery short-term memory for his of thought.

I started off with something benign: You’ve gotten a lot of press, I said. What question are you tired of answering?

He put down his Sprite can and crossed his arms. He was quiet for a moment. “I’m tired of people not logically linking my case to West African survivors,” he said. “People ought to be tired of hearing one man’s story. I’m tired of telling it.”

* * *

On March 29, the World Health Organization declared that Ebola was no longer a global health emergency—but many people in West Africa are still feeling its effects.

Fifteen-year-old Mohamed Kamara weaves through the crevices in his slum below the Hagan Street clock tower in central Freetown, Sierra Leone, leading me to the three-sided shack where he and his siblings live under the care of their mother’s friend, a woman named Salimatu; they call her “auntie.” If we’re planning to offer him another cold Fanta, he tells me in Krio, we should just give him the money for it, and preferably hand it over before we arrived.

We climb over two toddlers, a rusted cooking pot, and huddle of elderly women squatting on overturned buckets. We duck under a laundry line strung with lacy thongs and t-shirts. The image of Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone, glares down at us from massive plastic portraits hanging on all four sides of the clock tower, as if his face were pressed up to the pane of an ant farm.

Mo, as I call him, looks about 9 years old. When we first met, I initially mistook him for his younger brother, Musa. A female classmate–three inches taller than Mo–squeezes the tip of his nose as she prances by, waggling it, teasing him. He cracks a shy smile, then wipes it off.

Mo is an Ebola survivor who is slowly going blind. (Emily Baumgaertner)

Mo scratches at his eyes, his burning photophobia triggered in the sunlight. My instinct is to bat his hand away, to warn him, “You’ll scratch your cornea!”, but I bite my tongue. A corneal abrasion would hardly exacerbate the fact that he is already going blind.

Read more at source: Is the Ebola Virus Hiding in the Eyes of the Epidemic’s Survivors? – The Atlantic

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