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The spread of Ebola has less to do with burial, more to do with basic sanitation

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As the body count in Equatorial West Africa is racing towards the 1,000 mark, the fear of a global pandemic is speeding along just as fast. As reported by the Ghana MMA news service (of Accra, Ghana) on Aug. 5, 2014, and also by Journal Times news portal (of Racine, Wisc.) on Aug. 3, 2014, the perfect storm of human waste, public water supply, and a very contagious and even deadlier virus, have all converged and causing many fearing we may be facing a global contagion that could make the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed roughly one out of every twenty five human beings on the planet, look like a head cold.

Since the Ebola outbreak made world headlines, most Western news organizations have attributed the spread of the virus to many of the region's ethnic groups customary physical contact with the recently deceased and the subsequent burial ceremonies. However, the real cause for the massive spread of the sickness may have less to do with the dearly departed, and more to do with drawing drinking water from an open sewer.

As cited, 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. With Ebola being a virus, there is a school of thought in the medical community that the disease could mutate to a point where coming into any contact with any bodily fluids could turn lethal, to include coming into contact with perspiration, a woman's breast milk or a man's semen could lead to infection and very possibly, death.

Multiple sources reinforce the common knowledge that public sanitation in the region is far from the standards most in the West take for granted. Unfortunately being the rule rather than the exception, the 4 million residents of Ghana's capital city of Accra, especially in the many slum areas, have no working public sewer system. To exacerbate the problem, 140 tanker trucks daily dump their contents of the city's toilets 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.

Such is 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 this 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.

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