How Ebola Roared Back

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
By Paul Martin

For a fleeting moment last spring, the epidemic sweeping West Africa might have been stopped. But the opportunity to control the virus, which has now caused more than 7,800 deaths, was lost.

DEC. 29, 2014

On the flight back to Atlanta, Dr. Pierre Rollin snoozed in Seat 26C in his usual imperturbable way, arms folded, head bobbing, oblivious to loudspeaker announcements and the periodic passing of the galley cart.

This routine had become part of his lore. During each viral outbreak, Dr. Rollin, the top Ebola expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would outlast his younger colleagues in the hotel lobby, staying awake until 3 or 4 a.m. to plug new cases into a database. He managed to do this at 61 because he possessed an uncanny ability to sleep anywhere anytime, whether on the hardwood floor of a staff house in Zaire (Ebola, 1995) or in a back seat lurching down a cratered road in Madagascar (Rift Valley fever, 2008).

On this trip home from Guinea on May 7, Dr. Rollin (pronounced Ro-LAHN in his native French) found himself at particular peace. His five-and-a-half-week stay as the C.D.C.’s team leader in the opening days of Guinea’s effort to control Ebola had gone about as well as one could have hoped.

The number of Ebola cases reported each week had been declining steadily for a month. It had been more than 10 days since doctors had seen a new patient in Conakry, the capital, where Dr. Rollin worked alongside other early responders from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders.

The Rest…HERE

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