05.01.2016

The index-case for Sierra Leone was a traditional healer from the rural chiefdom Kissy of the eastern district Kailahun who participated in a funeral event in Guinea in May 2014. This case alone infected above 30 family members, friends, and health staff who visited or cared about a “normal” woman of their society. The number of cases rapidly increased, and just eight weeks later, the country recorded above 500 cases. Most victims were poor, uneducated population groups in the urban slums and in rural areas. The spread of the disease was facilitated by poor living conditions with lack of sanitation facilities, poor hygiene and hand-washing practices, and by traditional burial rites in which the dead body is honoured with ceremonies where extended families and friends dance around and kiss the dead body. The symptoms of Ebola resemble common local diseases such as malaria and typhoid fever, and initially, the population distrusted the information shared by health workers and NGOs about the nature and consequences of this new killer virus.