African officials pled with faith healers to let doctors treat the latest fatal outbreak.
The tight restrictions put in place to stop the latest flare-up of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) go against the typical rhythms of church life, where Christians regularly gather together, partake in sacraments, and lay hands on one another to pray for healing.
Before the World Health Organization declared the six-week-long outbreak largely contained last week, Christian patients and church leaders numbered among the dozens infected by the deadly disease that most violently erupted around West Africa between 2013 and 2016, killing more than 11,000 people.
Two Ebola patients died last month after fleeing a hospital isolation ward so they could be taken to a prayer meeting, where they exposed up to 50 others. Hospital efforts to contain the violent ailment were not enough to prevent two infected patients from being swept out of the hospital to pray.
“The escape was organized by the families, with six motorcycles as the patients were very ill and couldn’t walk,” said Dr. Jean-Clement Carbol, an emergency medical coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, according to Reuters. “They were taken to a prayer room with 50 people to pray. They were found at two in the morning, one of them dead and one was dying. So that’s 50–60 contacts right there.”
(Another Doctors Without Borders coordinator, Henry Gray, said the patients left of their own accord, despite pleas from hospital staff.)
A brutal virus with a mortality rate around 50 percent (and sometimes much higher, depending on the strain), Ebola was first recorded in the DRC, where nine outbreaks have occurred over the last 50 years. The current epidemic, which began in early May, has resulted in at least 38 confirmed cases, …