TIME ebola

New York Ebola Survivor Says He was Treated Like a Fraud After Diagnosis

Dr. Craig Spencer smiles during a news conference November 11, 2014 at Bellevue Hospital in New York.
Don Emmert—AFP/Getty Images Dr. Craig Spencer smiles during a news conference November 11, 2014 at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

"My U.S. colleagues who have returned home from battling Ebola have been treated as pariahs"

A doctor who worked in Guinea treating Ebola victims says he was labeled a “fraud, a hipster, and a hero” after he was diagnosed with contracting the deadly virus on his return to the U.S.

In an essay published on Wednesday, Craig Spencer, who is New York’s first and only Ebola patient, says how politicians and the media accused him of putting the public at risk.

“I was being vilified in the media even as my liver was failing and my fiancée was quarantined in our apartment,” he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Spencer, 33, documents how his work in the Ebola treatment center in Guéckédou, Guinea, was rewarding, but that it also took a toll on his psychological and physical health.

“Back in New York, the suffering I’d seen, combined with exhaustion, made me feel depressed for the first time in my life,” he writes.

On Oct. 23, Spencer was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital after reporting a fever and fatigue and was later diagnosed with Ebola.

Though the clinician had been monitoring his temperature in line with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention protocol, Spencer says his movements before the diagnosis were heavily criticized by the media and politicians.

“The whole country soon knew where I like to walk, eat, and unwind,” he said. “People excoriated me for going out in the city when I was symptomatic, but I hadn’t been symptomatic — just sad.”

Spencer slammed New York and New Jersey Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie for imposing extra, and what he believed to be unnecessary, quarantine measures for health workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries.

“Politicians, caught up in the election season, took advantage of the panic to try to appear presidential instead of supporting a sound, science-based public health response,” he said.

Spencer was discharged from Bellevue Ebola-free after 19 days of treatment.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Said to Ban Foreigners From Marathon

Regime reportedly cites Ebola as a concern

North Korea has banned foreigners from participating in the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon, citing concerns over Ebola, a company that facilitates foreign travel to the isolated country said Monday.

“We are sorry to announce that our North Korean partners contacted us this morning with news that the 2015 Pyongyang Marathon has — as of today — been closed to amateur and professional foreign runners,” Koryo Tours said in a statement on its website.

The marathon, scheduled this year for April 12, typically draws a large foreign contingent. Koryo Tours alone had planned to take 500 people to the country for the event, according to Reuters. The company said it planned for March tours to proceed as previously scheduled.

North Korean authorities also reportedly cancelled the annual Mass Games—a gymnastics festival that typically drew a foreign crowd—without providing an explanation.

The North Korean government offered no apparent explanation for its Ebola concerns. The disease has killed thousands of people around the world, but none of the deaths have been in Asia. The country’s government has claimed through state television that Ebola was created by the U.S. government.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Hollywood’s diversity problem goes beyond “Selma.” Asian and Latino stories and faces are missing.

By Jose Antonio Vargas and Janet Yang in the Los Angeles Times

2. Shifting the narrative away from religion is key to defeating ISIS.

By Dean Obeidallah in the Daily Beast

3. Innovation alone won’t fix social problems.

By Amanda Moore McBride and Eric Mlyn in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. When the Ebola epidemic closed schools in Sierra Leone, radio stepped in to fill the void.

By Linda Poon at National Public Radio

5. The racial wealth gap we hardly talk about? Retirement.

By Jonnelle Marte in the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME ebola

Liberia’s Children Go Back to School but Ebola Is Not Over Yet

Students stand in line before heading to their classrooms at Don Bosco High School in the Liberian capital Monrovia on Feb. 16, 2015.
Zoom Dosso—AFP/Getty Images Students stand in line before heading to their classrooms at Don Bosco High School in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on Feb. 16, 2015

All across Liberia, streets are filled with the excited laughter of children returning to school after a six-month hiatus. The children, decked in the smart cotton uniforms of both public and private schools, line up in front of their classrooms to wash their hands in chlorine solution and wait to get their temperatures read by teachers wielding infrared thermometer guns.

Once inside they will pick up lessons abandoned in August, when an Ebola epidemic cut a swath through the country, infecting nearly 9,000 and killing at least 3,826. “The Ebola outbreak has had a devastating effect on our health and education systems and our way of life in Liberia,” Liberia’s Minister of Education Etmonia Tarpeh said in a statement. “We have managed to beat back the spread of the virus through collective efforts. Reopening and getting our children back to school is an important aspect of ensuring children’s education is not further interrupted.”

Ebola taught the nation to fear contact, to avoid unnecessary gatherings and to distrust a government and an international community that seemed both unwilling and unable to bring the crisis to an end. But with the start of school — deemed safe by the Ministry of Education, even though the virus has not been completely eradicated from the country — Liberians are regaining a sense of normalcy and can allow themselves to hope for a time when Ebola is little more than a bad memory. “It’s a good sign,” says school nurse Iris Martor. “We can’t let down our guard, but we can start thinking about the future again.”

Not all schools have opened. Some have yet to receive basic sanitation kits from the government and the U.N. Children’s Fund, and others are still being cleaned up and disinfected after having served as holding centers for the ill. Some, like Martor’s More Than Me Academy, which serves underprivileged girls from Monrovia’s West Point slum, won’t open their doors until March 2.

Schools have already reopened in neighboring Guinea, where the outbreak started in late 2013, and are expected to open in Sierra Leone, which has seen the highest number of infections, at the end of March. Of the three most affected countries, Liberia has recovered the quickest. It has seen just a handful of new cases every week since January, compared with an increase from 39 to 65 new cases in Guinea and 76 new cases in Sierra Leone in the week ending Feb. 8, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Still, it’s a dramatic decline compared with the hundreds of new cases every week during the peak of the epidemic in September and October.

On Monday, officials in the three countries announced that they had set a target of reducing the number of new cases to zero within 60 days. It is an achievable goal, but similar targets have been set in the past, only to be undermined by a sudden flare-up in unexpected areas.

Ebola, which kills nearly half its victims, is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. Practices like the washing of the dead are deeply ingrained in West African society; all it takes is one improperly conducted funeral for a new chain of transmission to start, undermining weeks of work. The WHO, in its most recent assessment, noted that Guinea reported a total of 34 unsafe burials last week.

Elsewhere in the country, village mobs attacked health workers from the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, accusing them of bringing the virus. Sierra Leone was forced to quarantine a fishing community in the capital, Freetown, after the discovery of a cluster of five new cases. “We are very, very far from the end of the outbreak,” Iza Ciglenecki from Doctors Without Borders told reporters at a science conference in California on Saturday. For most illnesses, it is enough to get the number of cases down to a low rate for doctors to be satisfied they have an infectious disease under control. Not so for Ebola. Until the number of new cases stays at zero for 42 days — twice the maximum incubation period — no one can afford to let their guard down, not even the students washing their hands in chlorine in the schoolyard.

TIME Liberia

Schools in Liberia Reopen After a Six-Month Closure Due to Ebola

Liberia Ebola West Africa
Abbas Dulleh—AP Liberian school children wash their hands before entering their classrooms as part of the Ebola prevention measures at Cathedral High School as students arrive in the morning to attend class in Monrovia, Liberia, Feb. 16, 2015.

Cases of the deadly virus have been in decline over the past few weeks

After a six-month closure due to the Ebola epidemic, many schools in Liberia reopened their classroom doors on Monday.

Before lessons began, pupils lined up to wash their hands in chlorinated water while teachers took their temperatures as part of new safety measures, reports the BBC.

Though students were excited to get back to school, some were worried that the virus had not been completely eradicated.

Liberia was one of the worst affected countries by Ebola with at least 3,800 people killed. However, there has been a general decline of the deadly disease in recent weeks.

According to the World Health Organization, only three new confirmed cases were reported in Liberia in the week leading to Feb. 8.

The reopening of schools comes a day after leaders of the three worst affected West African states — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — vowed to achieve “zero Ebola infections within 60 days,” during a meeting in the latter on Sunday.


TIME ebola

Ebola Bodies Are Infectious a Week After Death, Study Shows

The virus is also detectable in corpses for up to 10 weeks

Scientists have known for some time that the closer a person with Ebola is to death, the more infectious they are. A dead body with Ebola has been frequently referred to as a “viral bomb.” But what was unclear was how long bodies remained infectious. Now, researchers working for the National Institutes of Health in Hamilton, Montana released new findings on Thursday showing the Ebola virus may remain infectious in dead bodies for a week, and detectable for 1o weeks.

In the study, the researchers infected five macaque monkeys—a species they believe can serve as models for humans—with Ebola, then eventually euthanized them. They placed the dead monkeys in a temperature- and environment-controlled chamber to simulate the climate of West Africa. Over several weeks, the researchers sampled and swabbed the tissue of their nose, mouth, blood, lung, spleen, liver and muscle.

MORE TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

They concluded that infectious Ebola virus remained in the macaques’ organs for three days, and in their blood for seven days, after death. Viral RNA, which wasn’t infectious, was still detectable for 10 weeks.

The new findings underline the continued need for vigilance when burying the bodies of Ebola victims, as well as safer funeral practices. In the beginning of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the spread of the virus could often be traced to funerals. Prior to massive education efforts, people living in the three affected countries often participated in intimate practices with the dead. In Liberia, for example, washing and kissing the corpse was a common custom.

The research also gives scientists a better understanding of how long the virus can remain in dead animals, since an outbreak is is typically spurred from contact between an infected animal and a human. It also provides a warning for researchers in the field who may handle primate carcasses, the researchers note.

Read next: How Today’s Ebola Response Reflects the History of Colonialism in Africa

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TIME health

How Today’s Ebola Response Reflects the History of Colonialism in Africa

Ebola Virus
;Getty Images A colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the Ebola virus

A scholar of global health observes the current Ebola outbreak with an eye toward history

This post is in collaboration with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, which brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to use the Library’s rich collections. The article below was originally published on the Kluge Center blog with the title Ebola, Colonialism, and the History of International Aid Organizations in Africa.

Historian Jessica Pearson-Patel was one of fifteen emerging scholars to participate in the Eighth International Seminar on Decolonization hosted by the Kluge Center and organized by the National History Center. A scholar of global health and colonial Africa, she has observed the current Ebola outbreak with an eye toward the history of health organizations on the continent. She sat down with Jason Steinhauer to examine the history behind international public health organizations in Africa and the historical parallels between Ebola and other transnational diseases.

During this Ebola outbreak, Western media coverage has devoted much attention to the Western and international aid organizations that travel or send aid to West Africa. Which organizations have been on the ground in West Africa already, and which are newly arrived to combat this particular epidemic? Is there a historical distinction between them?

The two health organizations that have played the most important roles in the current Ebola epidemic are the World Health Organization, founded in 1946, and Doctors without Borders, founded in 1971. But international health organizations in Africa have a long and complicated history. The history is made all the more complex by the fact that when some of these organizations began in the post-World War II era, much of the African continent was still ruled by European colonial administrations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was one of the first international health organizations to play an important role in Africa. The WHO was founded after the war as an autonomous organization linked to the United Nations. Its central organization created six regional offices that were intended to better respond to health concerns on the ground around the world: Europe, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Pacific, and Africa. The creation of the Africa office was highly contested. Africa had some of the most pressing health problems of all the regions, but colonial officials feared that because the organization was affiliated with the U.N., international medical personnel could potentially bring anti-colonial ideologies with them, in addition to vaccines and medical equipment. Colonial governments did what they could to stall the work of the WHO and also created their own health organizations. None of these colonial health organizations still exist, but the efforts to limit the WHO’s reach in Africa certainly shaped its evolution there.

Médecins sans Frontières, or Doctors without Borders (MSF), was founded after African decolonization, in the wake of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). MSF was able to escape many of the colonial constraints faced by the WHO owing to the fact it was created 25 years later.

Many other governmental and non-governmental health and humanitarian organizations exist today, and are involved in the fight against Ebola. But most do so in coordination with WHO and MSF.

It sounds as though the history of health organizations is intimately linked to the history of colonialism–as is the ideology and rhetoric used by these organizations.

Yes. Initial health projects in colonial Africa were directed at diseases that primarily affected Europeans. This was an attempt to facilitate European colonial rule. Hospitals were built to treat European patients. Ports were sanitized. As colonial powers increasingly came under local and international pressure to justify their actions in Africa, health services for Africans became a way to justify imperial rule in the context of a “civilizing mission.” Health efforts shifted to vaccinating Africans against diseases like yellow fever, developing mobile health teams to service patients in rural areas, and constructing “modern” maternity hospitals where African women could give birth in European-style facilities. Health services in Africa in the early 20th century were intimately linked to the project of colonial conquest and domination and the prevailing rhetoric was one of “civilization.”

After the founding of the United Nations in 1945, many colonial powers–especially the French–reframed their discourse about health in terms of “development,” rather than “civilization.” It is this rhetoric of development that came both from postwar international organizations and postwar colonial governments that we see today–although “development” certainly can have a different valence in the context of independent African countries.

What was the impetus for the WHO’s creation in 1946? What about the post-war moment contributed to its forming?

Organizations such as the WHO are relatively recent phenomena. While the adage “disease knows no boundaries” has been generally acknowledged for centuries, the creation of wide-reaching international health organizations is a post-war invention. Organizations like the International Office of Public Hygiene and the League of Nations Health Organizations preceded the World Health Organization, but the WHO was intended to be the first truly universal health organization that would play a significant role in combating disease and improving lives on the ground around the globe.

That the organization was the brainchild of a particular postwar moment is perhaps best evidenced by a statement in the WHO’s constitutions that notes that “the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security.” The founders of the organization believed that promoting well-being for all peoples of the world, “regardless of race, religion, or political belief” would be an essential component in preventing another conflict like the one the world had just suffered through.

How did the role of health organizations in West Africa change after independence (post-1960)?

The end of colonial rule from the late 1950s to the early 1970s gave international health organizations much more latitude to expand their roles. Efforts focused on eradicating malaria and smallpox, improving child nutrition, and developing health care infrastructure, like clinics and hospitals. At the same time, doctors from former colonial states often maintained informal partnerships with medical professionals in these new African states, sometimes working through the framework of international organizations to continue their work.

As you study the Ebola epidemic through the lens of a historian of public health, do you see analogies with other transnational diseases: bubonic plague, yellow fever, cholera? Are these analogies useful in gaining perspective on what we’re currently living through?

Excellent question! For me, what all of these diseases teach us is how connected the world has always been and how we must work together to find solutions to the biggest threats to human security. I see many analogies between what face today with Ebola and what politicians and medical professionals faced in earlier eras with plague, yellow fever, and cholera. What concern me most are the dangers of misunderstanding of the mechanics of transmission. When doctors and diplomats from 12 countries met in 1851 to discuss the possibilities of quarantines to prevent the spread of plague and cholera, most could not agree on how these diseases were transmitted. Their solution was to un-invite the doctors from the next meeting (1859), arguing that this was primarily a political, and not a scientific issue. We’ve seen the danger of medical misunderstanding and misinformation in the Ebola epidemic. It’s imperative to work collaboratively to reconcile local cultural, social, and political constraints with scientific realities of disease transmission.

You remarked to your students that diseases have always been transnational. They have no respect for man-made geographic borders. Yet, when we talk about disease, particularly Ebola, we speak of it as an “African” disease. We use the borders we’ve drawn as means to isolate issues that are global in nature–a sort of “other-ing” use of geography. What’s really going on when we speak and think about global issues in such local terms?

Geography has been used to create an African “other” in the context of the current Ebola epidemic. Elements of the American media have been quick to construe Ebola as an “African problem,” while in reality Africa is a vast and vastly diverse continent, and the epidemic has been limited to a small part of West Africa. Some of the coverage of the epidemic relies on colonial tropes of African backwardness, and depicts Africa as an uncivilized and diseased continent. What we need is to both familiarize ourselves with the actual geography of the epidemic as well as the reality of African diversity, and to move away from language that paints Africa as a backward place in need of Western civilization. Africans are actively involved in fighting the epidemic and it is only though a model of partnership that we can hope to eliminate the disease.

Jessica Pearson-Patel is an assistant professor in the Department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally entitled “The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa.”

TIME Military

Pentagon Wraps Up Ebola Response in West Africa

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby Holds Media Briefing
Win McNamee—Getty Images Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby answers questions at the Pentagon on Aug. 22, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.

The Pentagon is withdrawing U.S. troops from West Africa who were stationed there in September to fight Ebola, leaving behind only a small force to combat future outbreaks.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that almost all troops will return home by April 30. At the height of the crisis, 2,800 Department of Defense personnel were in West Africa, and today 1,500 of them are already back to their duty stations.

“Over the past several months, the Department of Defense delivered critical life-saving resources, constructed Ebola Treatment Units, trained hundreds of local and international healthcare workers, and provided logistical support to humanitarian and public health workers who provided care throughout West Africa,” the statement said.

According to a White House fact sheet, more than 10,000 U.S. government-supported civilians are now on the ground in West Africa. The U.S. government also facilitated the construction of 15 Ebola Treatment Units, 10 of which were built by U.S. service members.

The Department of Defense will leave behind a small residual force, about 100 personnel, to stay in West Africa to ward against future outbreaks.

TIME portfolio

After Ebola: See Life Returning to Normal in Liberia

After more than 3,600 deaths, Liberians are now looking at the future with optimism

With the number of new Ebola cases in decline in Liberia — in the last week of January, only five new infections were reported — the West African country is slowly returning to life as usual, as Getty Images photographer John Moore witnessed on his latest trip there.

It was August 2014 when Moore first visited Liberia. At that time, the country grappled with the deadly epidemic, as well as the terrorizing fear it engendered. The 47-year-old photographer spent a month documenting some of Liberia’s darkest hours – his harrowing images forever seared in readers’ minds.

This past month, as Moore returned to Liberia, he looked to bring the story full circle. “I tried to turn the focus from death to life,” he tells TIME. “I felt I owed that to the story, the people there — and to myself. The photos we make now live forever on the Internet — and also within ourselves. Those previous visits produced some very dark moments in pictures, and in my own memories. This time, I reached more toward the light.”

There’s no denying that the situation in Liberia was catastrophic last year. “There was so much fear during the height of the epidemic,” says Moore. “The only way to stop the spread of the virus was for people to stop touching each other, especially in times of sickness and death.”

As a result, Liberians had to demolish their own social fabric: raised in a very tactile culture, suddenly they had to be suspicious of any person displaying symptoms, and stop embracing each other altogether.

But on his most recent trip, Moore witnessed a marked change in behavior. “Seeing people interact again as physically affectionate human beings was most inspiring to me,” he says. “I photographed a wedding reception, where everyone openly embraced; beaches, where Monrovians relax on Sunday afternoons, enjoying the sun and playing soccer; groups posing together for photos; church services, students registering for schools due to open this month.”

Of course, Liberia is still not in the clear. “There is still the danger that the epidemic could resurge,” says Moore. “So all deaths, both of natural and unnatural causes, are being treated with extreme caution. The Liberian Red Cross burial teams continue to wear personal protective equipment to collect bodies. Only now, instead of sending them for cremation, they take the deceased to the new cemetery and families are permitted to watch the ‘safe’ burials.”

This has helped quash the epidemic in the capital, says Moore, “as many families were reluctant to give up their dead for cremation,” because it doesn’t conform with tradition.

Today, with many more Ebola treatment centers in place than at the height of the outbreak, there is no shortage of care for those infected. “The aid has greatly helped in treating those who come down with Ebola in recent months and in bringing the numbers of new infections down so much,” says Moore. “In addition to the Ebola centers, most Liberian clinics and hospitals that treat people for both routine and emergency health problems have reopened, although a critical shortage of doctors persists nationwide.”

On his last day in Liberia, Moore visited Redemption Hospital, a treatment center in the capital city of Monrovia that became one of the country’s most notorious Ebola holding centers. “This time, mothers were bringing in their infants for routine vaccinations and people were being cared for,” he says. “Also in Redemption, the National Institutes of Health launched its Ebola vaccination trials. Though too late to help the victims of this past outbreak, if the vaccine is successful, it could save thousands of lives next time — and with Ebola, there will be a next time.”

John Moore is a staff photographer with Getty Images.

Phil Bicker, who edited this photo essay, is a senior photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him onTwitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Jan. 30 – Feb. 6

From New York’s deadly train crash and night surfing in the Mediterranean sea to China’s traditional eagle hunters and a Fifty Shades of Grey inspired “Fifty Shades of Cake” exhibition in England, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

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