In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there is some doubt that Ebola is a real disease. Locals sometimes claim the illness was “brought in by white people” as was stated by Florida Kayindo, a 36-year-old who eventually contract and the sickness herself. Even now, after having survived infection, she still questions her understanding of the disease. Many believe the virus is spread through food or water, but scientists know the illness is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons or bats.
Now, during the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, misinformation is the main contributor to difficulties in containment. Skepticism from locals about the nature of the disease creates tension between the Congolese and health workers, whose containment efforts put them at risk. Some believe their own government is spreading the virus for political gain. Others believe that international aid organizations are to blame, killing people deliberately in treatment centers.
The distrust of relief organizations makes it incredibly difficult to slow the use of traditional burial methods. These burials often require complete removal of waste products from the body, often done by hand. Because the virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids of the infected, these traditions are infection Ground Zero for many Congolese families.
The fight against Ebola in the DRC is dangerous work. Dozens of people have been killed in more than 130 attacks on Ebola response facilities. While attacks on healthcare facilities involved in the fight against the disease continue, relief workers are attempting to build trust amongst the locals. One way they have attempted this was by switching to clear body bags. This allows families of the dead a more agreeable opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones. It also helps dispel the myth that the organs of Ebola patients are being harvested.
Traditional healers, who are more trusted in Congress culture, are also being brought into the response. Although some of them believe they can heal Ebola through traditional methods, others are helping to identify new cases so they may be contained as soon as possible. Additionally, as frontline workers in the oval response, these healers become eligible for vaccinations related to the disease.