When Holding An Orphaned Baby Can Mean Contracting Ebola Anne Purfield and Michelle Dynes, epidemiologists at the CDC, recently spent several weeks in Sierra Leone. The Ebola epidemic, they explain, has taken a heavy toll on local health care workers.

When Holding An Orphaned Baby Can Mean Contracting Ebola

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/354888965/355051091" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It is Friday morning, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. And today, we hear from Anne Purfield and Michelle Dynes. They are epidemiologists at the CDC. And they've spent the last several weeks in Sierra Leone. They've been responding to the Ebola outbreak. They both volunteered. And when they returned to the United States, they came to StoryCorps.

MICHELLE DYNES: One day, I had gone out in one of the villages, and I met a woman who was crying. And she said, I've lost 10 members of my family, and two of them died this morning.

ANNE PURFIELD: Within a matter of three weeks, she lost almost everyone she cared about. And then on top of that, you can't touch anyone.

DYNES: Exactly.

PURFIELD: You can't comfort them.

DYNES: Imagine losing 10 members of your family and no one giving you a hug.

PURFIELD: But I think back to what happened with the baby at the hospital whose mother came in and died, and the baby was in a box. They tested the baby, and the baby was negative. But I think the symptoms in babies and the disease progression in babies is different than adults.

DYNES: Right.

PURFIELD: So the nurses would pick up and cuddle the baby. And they were taking care of the baby in the box. And then 12 of them got Ebola, and one survived.

DYNES: Because they couldn't just watch a baby sitting alone in a box. By the time we had arrived, more than 20 nurses had died from Ebola. And nearly all of the phlebotomists had died. And so throughout the hospital, you could see pictures of nurses hung up in remembrance of them. And the hospital staff would line the little roads as they carried out the bodies of their hospital staff. They've taken care of their own colleagues and watched them all die, one after another after another.

PURFIELD: And they still go back into the wards.

DYNES: Yeah.

PURFIELD: I felt like we were on a ship, and the water was just pouring in. And there were so many holes. And we just kept bailing water and bailing water, and we weren't making any difference.

DYNES: You know, it just hits you really hard because you realize we're only here for five weeks, six weeks. They're here for the long haul.


INSKEEP: Anne Purfield and Michelle Dynes - epidemiologists at the CDC who spoke at StoryCorps in Atlanta. Their conversation will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And as always, you can get the podcast at npr.org.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.