Ebola: people without borders..

Recently, Norwegian Silje Lehne Michalsen (30) recovered from Ebola. She had been in Sierra Leone on mission for Doctors Without Borders when she became infected. Two and a half weeks ago, the news about Norwegian field worker infected with Ebola broke out. She was going to be transmitted to Norway for treatment. She was a Norwegian citizen, physician, who had completely voluntarily left off to a risky place to help those who are not fortunate enough to have health and sanitation systems close to what we have in Norway. Here in this small country with a shortage of sensational news, her case has been covered with great excitement in media. Most people here understand that if there is any place that infected woman can get ultra optimal and impeccable care, it is a highly isolated hospital unit specifically designed for such and even worse infectious diseases. Fair enough.

Then, there are obviously a lot of people who absolutely do not get this and a lot of other relevant issues that comes up. Comment fields on these news stories reveal an enormous lack of knowledge and respect from some people. The reactions from some quarters when doctor Kent Brantly, ebola infected, was known to be on the plane home to the United States for treatment, revealed that there are people who are unable to think beyond the tip of their own noses. I’d never believe this would be a big issue here in little Norway. There are several facts that point out that an ebola infected norwegian patient, is best treated here. Not only is the health care system better by:

  1. Good hospital buildings vs. no buildings/tents even
  2. Highly insulated and bounded infection department vs. camp beds.
  3. Availability and specially trained staff vs. not
  4. Well-controlled proximity to relatives
  5. A lot, lot, less airtraffic than US, UK etc..
  6. A highly controlled situation, controlled transport etc.

Even with this knowledge, it seems that many in this country never wanted this patient to ever set foot on Norwegian soil, even if she is as much a Norwegian citizen like themselves, and have done much more than any of them to stop this epidemic. It is for me and fortunately many other, very clear and obvious that this woman had the right to get the best treatment, which she hopefulle had. Norwegian authorities had a responsibility to her and Norwegian authorities have a responsibility to the rest of the world. The latter part of this sentence, I know many do not want to swallow. They believe that this is a third world problem that must solved without interference, even if there is no access to all the facilities necessary, and that nature should take its course, so this will die out by itself!

They believe that the infection is self-inflicted and that who is infected should stay where the infection was inflicted and not bring the shit to their “clean” country. I have seen many movies about doomsday experiences where the worst in people comes forward when it is about pure survival. These reactions remind me of those movies. When people with access to the best resources demonstrate such ignorance, disclaimer and superiority, it is not just sad and embarrassing on their own behalf, I also think of what will happen if an epidemic  really whould occur in this country. Now this woman was white and a doctor, what if she had a different ethnic background? She was only ONE person who was to be transported, transmitted and treated under extremely controlled conditions; in a department especially built for this purpose, with staff especially trained for this task. I wonder when else would we have made ​​use of these resources? I am dumbfounded to know that there are such people in this country and really wonder the level of knowledge and how this lack of compassion occurs.


Photocredit: Bøe, Torstein/NTB SCANPIX

Additional resources:

Doctors Without Borders
Ebola on WHO


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