It is now 38 years since the first recorded outbreak of Ebola virus in 1976. Today, we are experiencing the worst Ebola virus epidemic in world history. According to the World Health Organization, more than 826 people have died in the African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in the forests of eastern Guinea in February. Among those who have died was an American of Liberian descent from Minnesota. In addition, more than 60 physicians, nurses, and other health workers assisting Ebola victims have died. My friends from Liberia have written to me asking for prayer for their fellow citizens as they live in great fear. Containing the virus is made more complicated because the disease has spread across different countries. On Saturday, Dr. Kent Brantly, a 33-year-old missionary doctor with Samaritan’s Purse and the first Ebola victim brought to the United States, arrived in Atlanta to be treated at Emory University Hospital. His Samaritan’s Purse colleague, Nancy Writebol, is scheduled to arrive from Africa on Tuesday. Dr. Brantly’s wife, Amber, said in a statement, “It was a relief to welcome Kent home today. I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S. I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital.” Press reports indicate that Dr. Brantly was flown from Africa to Dobbins Air Reserve base outside Atlanta in a small jet equipped with a special, portable tent to contain highly infectious diseases. Accompanied to Emory University Hospital by a small police escort, upon arrival at the hospital, Dr. Brantly climbed out of the ambulance dressed completely in white protective clothing. Although some have questioned the federal government’s wisdom and motivation in bringing Ebola victims to the United States, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said that Dr. Brantly’s condition is “improving.” Nevertheless, Dr. Frieden also stated that it was too soon to tell whether Dr. Brantly would survive.
There is presently no known cure for Ebola, and in Africa, the virus kills up to 90 percent of infected people. Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever, headaches, and weakness that can escalate to vomiting, diarrhea, and then kidney and liver problems. Often patients will bleed both internally and externally, including from their eyes. Fighting Ebola is difficult in Africa as people who become ill are often stigmatized by others in their towns and villages, and so there is often reluctance to come forward until it is much too late. Further, in parts of Africa, some believe that the disease is caused by witchcraft. The president of Liberia has closed his nation’s schools and government offices. People are no longer shaking hands, and chlorinated water is now used for people to wash their hands regularly in an effort to stem the epidemic. This is now the practice in churches as well.
Please pray for the end of this terrible outbreak of Ebola. Please also pray for the victims and their families of this terrible disease, including our brother and sister in Christ, Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol. Let us also pray for the Christian and other charity workers who courageously serve those affected by this dreadful disease with the love of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus warned us in Luke 21 and Matthew 24 that among the signs of His imminent return were pestilences in diverse places. Please pray for God’s protection over our brothers and sisters in Christ in accordance with Psalm 91, which serves as a promise and blessing against pestilence for those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High.” Maranatha!