Liberian health care worker experiences Ebola as patient

Liberian health care worker Austin Jallah contracted the Ebola virus after he gave medication to a person he didn't know had the virus. | Courtesy of the World Health Organization

A Liberian health worker who survived a bout with the Ebola virus said he is grateful for the experience and hopes it will help rid the country of the disease.

Austin Jallah, 28, was infected in August while he gave medication to a person who unknowingly had the virus. Jallah said he later found out the person he gave the medication to died from the Ebola virus. That's when he immediately checked himself into the hospital.

"People really doubted the fact that Ebola was real, until we heard about the first case in the hospital," Jallah said. "I wasn’t one of those who doubted, though. Because I am a student nurse, I had read about the Ebola virus before, how it was first discovered back in 1976.”

He was one of 360 health care workers in Liberia who have contracted the virus. Jallah's colleagues monitored him for three days before he started showing symptoms, including a fever and vomiting. Jallah was then transported to ELWA 2, an Ebola treatment unit in the country's capital of Monrovia.

“When I was admitted into the Ebola treatment unit, I was very much in pain,” Jallah said. “The whole experience was traumatic for me. The virus really destroys your immune system. While I was inside the Ebola treatment unit, I felt very bad. Fourteen of my health worker friends were infected and taken to the ETU. Ten of them died. I am one of only four who survived, so I thank God for that.”

It wasn't until 20 days later that Jallah received a negative result from his second polymerase chain reaction test. The next day, he was released from the treatment center. When Jallah first got out, he called his parents and friends to tell them the good news.

“I will never forget that phone call; I was just so happy,” Jallah said. “I took a bath, and I was given new clothes to put on, including new slippers. I had to leave all my belongings that I had in the ETU, my cell phone, money…I left it all there. The hygienist sprayed me for the last time, then I was able to leave the treatment center.”

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