Doctor: I contracted the Ebola virus and survived

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Infectious diseases doctor Bakary Oularé contracted Ebola and survived the potential deadly virus - for which there is no cure.
Infectious diseases doctor Bakary Oularé contracted Ebola and survived the potential deadly virus - for which there is no cure. Credit: ITV News

By ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers, in Conakry, Guinea

Fear surrounds Ebola, stifling the facts and making people utterly irrational when faced with the virus or people who have survived it. Just like Ebola, the fear is dangerous and contagious, but like the virus it can be overcome.

At the MSF clinic in Conakry during the initial outbreak of the 59 confirmed cases, 22 people died - a mortality rate of 37%. But the medicine is evolving and improving and in some clinics that death rate is now as low as 25%. Early detection and treatment is the key.

It’s why Bakary Oularé is still alive. He was the first person to survive the virus in Conakry and spoke exclusively to ITV News. He caught Ebola from a colleague at the hospital where he works in March.

Ebola survivor Dr Bakary Oularé with ITV News correspondent Dan Rivers in Conakry.
Ebola survivor Dr Bakary Oularé with ITV News correspondent Dan Rivers in Conakry. Credit: ITV News

"I had a headache and my body became hot. At that point we knew there was a hemorrhagic fever that was killing people in the south … but the epidemic hadn’t been declared. I started to vomit and have diarrhoea and I asked myself if this was Ebola.”

Read: Ebola death toll rises to 467 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

“All that was in my head was that it was my death. Yes, my death ... I was lost. My first reaction was to go and look at all my family because I have two children and my wife.

"Before I left the house to go the hospital I said a final goodbye. They said, ‘Why?’ I didn’t want to tell them the truth because they would be as shocked as I was. I looked at the children and left them some money and said I’d be back.”

Ebola survivor Dr Bakary Oularé with ITV News correspondent Dan Rivers in Conakry.
Ebola survivor Dr Bakary Oularé with ITV News correspondent Dan Rivers in Conakry. Credit: ITV News

When he arrived at hospital he thought he could only have days left to live, and was facing an agonizing death alone in an isolation ward of the Ebola clinic.

"I said 'Doctor, it is finished for me.' He said, ‘No - it’s true, Ebola is an illness where we have no medicine, treatment or vaccine but you are a doctor, I am not going to tell you that you are going to die. Have courage, be strong.”

The Community Project with Plan International is trying to educate locals, many of whom don't believe Ebola even exists.
The Community Project with Plan International is trying to educate locals, many of whom don't believe Ebola even exists. Credit: ITV

Zeina [not her real name] is another survivor. She is still nervous about showing her face on television such is the stigma she still encounters.

She tells me she lost six members of her family including her 10-year-old cousin. But she says what was most difficult was the way she was treated by her own community when she left the clinic having been cured. Friends and neighbours shunned her. Many were terrified of the disease, with an almost superstitious fear.

Zeina is brimming with a defiant spirit that is admirable. She now works to destigmatise Ebola survivors, educating others about the virus.

Extreme vigilance has been required to deal with the deadly outbreak.
Extreme vigilance has been required to deal with the deadly outbreak. Credit: ITV News

The key to defeating this outbreak is education. There are still plenty of people in West Africa who don’t believe the virus really exists, who think it is a spell or who blame doctors for deliberately spreading Ebola.

It’s thought that the virus may come from fruit bats and is possibly transmitted by people eating them and other bush-meat. We talk to people in the market of Conakry who readily admit to eating chimpanzees, warthogs and bats and who insist Ebola is a fiction, a conspiracy.

Watch: Inside the 'chilling' clinic treating the biggest outbreak of Ebola ever recorded

I ask Dr Oularé his message to people who don’t believe this epidemic is real.

"It is true Ebola exists in Guinea. Ebola is deadly. There is no treatment for Ebola, no vaccine for Ebola.

"But everyone who has been in contact with the virus, who has gone to hospital can come out. Everyone who stays in their own house and thinks the illness will go away are going to lose their lives.

"If Ebola is diagnosed early, you have a chance of being cured”