Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Disease and Death :: History Journal Diary Essays

Disease and Death May 14th 1963: The jungles of Zaire are much more intimidating and humbling in person than in the brochure at the Peace Corps office. I have been dispatched here to assist in the quarantine and treatment of the locals and some wild life. While I am overcome with the beauty of the flora I can't help but ponder the sheer amount of insects and mosquitoes that this sort of environment can support... After a 5 hour bus ride into the forest we come to a clearing with clusters of lean-tos and make shift buildings. What once was a clearing for farm animals to graze and to grow crops is now a make shift graveyard and apparently the process of burying the dead has become too much of a burden on the bereaved and a funeral pyre burns day in and day out. The air of the village hangs low with the stench of death and burnt flesh while the wailing of those that have survived, thus far, greet the ears of the volunteers. The doctors have already set up a make shift hospital in the largest of the buildings and the volunteers are shown to the quarters and are expected to work right alongside the doctors as an informal nurse. May 15th 1963: I have estimated that the population of the village before the outbreak of this plague was roughly 500-750 inhabitants with an equal population of livestock. It appears that the cattle were afflicted first and were promptly skinned and burnt. The disease then ran its course into the herdsmen who were responsible for disposing of the cattle. The first case occurred a month ago when one of the skinners nicked a finger while skinning. As I gathered, from the translator who has been interviewing people since his arrival two weeks ago, that at first people thought the man just to have a common cold and headache but after a few days his eyes were filled with blood and he became hot to the touch. Then the skin became horribly bruised as if he had suffered some sort of terrible flogging. As the disease progressed his fever steadily increased seeming to cook him alive and the bruises filled with what one could only imagine as his own wretched blood trying to escape the b ody housing it.

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