After walking off the plane in Abidjan, just after I got a whiff of West Africa (ocean, humidity, diesel, and who knows what else), we went through a quick Ebola test. Our skin temperature was quickly taken, and we were all given two generous pumps of hand sanitizer. The 50-ish French man ahead of me joked about having Ebola and coughed on the guy taking our temperature. I hope a malaria mosquito bit him.
We were not, however, given a card about our travels or asked if we have been in a place where Ebola has been found, maybe because we walked off a plane from France. Technically, my country does have Ebola cases …
I shared a ride from the airport with two USAID workers who were very nice, but one was saying that if Ebola cases are discovered in Cote d’Ivoire, they would probably start requesting that Americans leave. (Because the Fulbright is sponsored by the U.S. State Department, I’m involved a bit with the embassy, though I’m not a U.S. employee, and I pretty much am on my own.)
I explained about the clinics set up along the border with Liberia and Guinea and how I think the government is somewhat prepared to contain if an outbreak does cross the border. She thought that anyone with Ebola would be brought to the capital for treatment – but I just can’t think that’s true. For one, if the government has set up treatment clinics near the border, it’s as much to prevent spread of the virus as it is to treat the people with it. Also, someone showing symptoms of Ebola is probably too sick to be transported on back-country roads to the capital.
But then I realized I was lecturing again and just said that I didn’t really know, that maybe the embassy briefing would tell them differently. Because nobody likes a pedant.
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts.