An Arizona filmmaker shared his experience documenting the origin of Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa with an audience at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine campus in downtown Phoenix as part of its Global Health Seminar series on Thursday.
Frank Kraljic spent much of his time during the crisis in Sierra Leone and surrounding countries filming for his upcoming documentary “Behind Ebola/Marburg.” There, he was able to see the destruction Ebola was causing. Ebola caused a total of 11,301 deaths during the West Africa outbreak in 2014, according the Centers for Disease Control.
“You talk about the U.S. being paranoid — this is justifiable paranoia,” he said.
The point of Kraljic’s documentary was to follow the origin of the virus, which started in Meliandou, Guinea. That location in particular was described as a place that formed “a perfect storm” for the spread of the virus due to all the traffic coming in and out of that region.
“This could not have happened at a worse location,” Kraljic said.
During the outbreak, anyone in the affected area could find themselves getting checked for symptoms a dozen times a day, Kraljic said.
In Sierra Leone, conspiracy theories plagued the minds of villagers who believed that the CDC and other organizations were attempting to harvest organs or had other hidden agendas, causing distrust toward the volunteers who were helping and other foreigners in the area, Kraljic said.
“There’s the fear that if they go in these treatment centers, all they see is people go in and they don’t come out,” Kraljic said.
However, these considerations were not exclusive, as Ladee Rickard, a member of the audience, remembered concerns that the outbreak stood a chance of spreading closer to home.
“I think it’s a kind of awareness that we need to have, because it’s not just over there,” Rickard said. “It did touch our shores.”
Others in the U.S. thought differently during the crisis.
Felipe Baca, a security guard at the event, commented that the concern during the outbreak was a byproduct of panic alone.
“It was just the hysteria of people that thought it was going to be everywhere,” Baca said.
The portrayal of the virus may have been sensationalized, but Kraljic specified that there is a difference between seeing a catastrophe on TV and actually being there while it’s happening.
“What you see on the news is not necessarily what the reality is in that location,” Kraljic said.
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