Atlanta's Liberian Community Holds Town Hall on Ebola

Aug 3, 2014

As the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history worsens across West Africa, those in metro Atlanta's sizeable Liberian community want to know what they can do to help stop the virus. 

Atlanta's Liberian community addresses how to tackle the Ebola crisis in West Africa Sunday night in Lilburn.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

That meant coming together Sunday night for a "Stop Ebola" town hall meeting at the Liberian Association of Metro Atlanta's office in Lilburn. 

For attendee and speaker Taiyee Quenneh, Ebola isn't just a virus.  It's what killed his friend Patrick. 

“He calls me Quebey," he recounts of his friend, stressing the 'b' sound.  "My name is Quenneh.  But every time, [Patrick] calls me Quebey.”

The Atlanta resident says he was close to Patrick Sawyer, his former roommate and a naturalized U.S. Citizen who recently died of Ebola.  

Quenneh is one of more than a hundred Liberian natives who gathered at the LAMA's town hall. 

Audience members ask Craig Manning of the CDC about how the Ebola outbreak is spread. Here, a man wants to know if it's better to leave dead bodies in the street, rather than bury them.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

The night’s message—tell your loved ones what Ebola is.  What it isn’t. How it’s spread.  And how to avoid exposure.  

And the audience has questions.  

"Should people avoid “brush meat,” like monkey and bats?"  The answer—yes. They're known carriers of Ebola.

And when someone dies, then what?   

“Keeping those dead bodies in the streets... is it more safe, or is it more dangerous in terms of the virus?" asked one attendee. 

More dangerous, answers Craig Manning,  a health communication specialist with the CDC.  He’s a panelist on the night’s program.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned, in the sense of trying to reach out," Manning says, discussing the lengths the CDC is going to in an effort to stem Ebola' spread.   

One example, using cell phones to spread the message. 

Handouts give clear messaging about stopping the Ebola virus.
Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

Mobile phones permeate Liberia, even in places where electricity and water are scarce. Because of strong ties natives keep with their loved ones, Manning says reaching Liberians in West Africa starts with reaching Liberians in American.  

“So we can move information through these channels, perhaps even more effectively than we can through social mobilization programs in-country.”

And it could be a long mission. 

Manning told the crowd he believes it will be at least December or January before the Ebola outbreak can be contained.