The Daily Mail and everyone else mentioned the sad and bizarre statistical fact: all 365 people (3/4 of the victims are women because they're more "the social glue" of their communities, caregivers) who died due to ebola (a lethal cousin of flu) in Sierra Leone caught the disease from a herbalist. What an irony.
The mass infection began in Guinea (patient zero has probably been correctly identified) and lots of the infected ones came to the herbalist in Sierra Leone – which used to be a healthy country. She got infected and many others caught the disease from her, many of them during the funeral.
Most people in Western Africa believe all sorts of wonderful things – well, we surely know a toned down version of these beliefs in the Western countries, too (sometimes because our friends and family members believe this stuff as well). However, I also feel that many people – even those in Western Africa – want to treat their health in a quasi-scientific way. This may be true even for many customers of the herbalists. These clients just don't have enough education and enough money to do it right.
Some herbs may really help with some conditions and some of the people in poor countries may know much more about their effects than we do. Still, I believe that even with the very limited financial resources we can witness in Western Africa, things may be done more effectively and happier ends may be reached if the Western know-how is used. Herbalists may perhaps help in some cases although most of their help is "noise".
However, it's much more important to know e.g. that if someone is meeting lots of ebola patients, she is becoming dangerous. It may sound cruel but you shouldn't even attend her funeral because the microorganisms and viruses may be abundant over there – because of her body and the survivors many of whom have met her.
This blog is only being visited by "a hundred" of people from Western Africa a year – it's a virtually invisible place on the TRF map. But if someone wants to ask questions about diseases and their possible treatment – we have professional physicians among the readers etc. – please do ask.