As the body count in Equatorial West Africa nears the 1,000 mark, the fear that Ebola will spread globally is increasing. The CDC has been reassuring so far, but according to the Ghana MMA news service, a perfect storm of human waste, a tainted public water supply, and a very contagious virus is stoking fears that we may be facing a global contagion that could be even deadlier than the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed roughly one out of every twenty five human beings on the planet.
Since the Ebola outbreak made world headlines, most Western news organizations have attributed the spread of the virus to regional and ethnic burial customs, which involve physical contact with the recently deceased. However, the real cause for the spread of the sickness may have less to do with the dearly departed, and more to do with drawing drinking water from waterways that are essentially open sewers.
The mere act of touching an infected person, the corpse of a deceased victim, or even coming into contact with blood, vomit, urine and feces could lead to deadly results. Some in the medical community believe that Ebola, as a virus, could mutate to a point where coming into any contact with any bodily fluids could turn lethal. Contact with perspiration, a woman’s breast milk, or a man’s semen could lead to infection and, very possibly, death.
Multiple sources confirm that public sanitation in the region falls short of the standards most in the West take for granted. As is (unfortunately) common, the 4 million residents of Ghana’s capital city of Accra, especially those in the many slum areas, have no working public sewer system. Exacerbating the problem is the waste removal method: 140 tanker trucks dump the contents of the city’s toilets into the Gulf of Guinea 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reportedly, the mountains of excrement stand as tall as a three story building.
Consider the case of Accra resident Ayitey Mensah, whose family shares a single communal toilet with 20 other families in his neighborhood. When the community commode went out of order eight years ago, neither Mr. Mensah nor any of his potty partners saw fit to repair the broken toilet. As is the norm in the area, when the proverbial call of nature hits, Mensah and his neighbors take the short stroll to the beach to “defecate on the shoreline.”
While many in the slums draw their drinking, cooking, and washing water from the same ditches that sadly attempt to pass as a sewer system, those fortunate enough to have running water have seen the drinking water supply contaminated by the tons of feces and urine dumped above ground. The seepage of bodily fluids has grown so dire that upwards of 700 people have contracted cholera since June.
So far, confirmed cases of Ebola have been reported in only the West African nations of Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. Meanwhile, there have been more than a few suspected Ebola cases rearing their ugly heads in Europe, Asia, and North America. However, none have been confirmed as of yet.