Monday, September 1, 2014

No One Is Shaking Hands In Nigeria Now

By Linus Okechukwu
Senior Reporter
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Gone are the days when we shook hands and hugged each other without trepidation, the days when handshakes during church services were a way of showing unconditional love for one another. Now we’ve transitioned into a new, harrowing phase of reality: no more handshakes. No hugs. Just wry smiles adorning the corners of our mouths.
There was a time was when I could hug my friends without a troubling sense of premonition. But times have also changed, and change we must.

This is the new reality we face as we continually live in dread of the burgeoning Ebola virus, which, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is suspected to have killed , has killed 1,552 people in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

Our lives, thoughts and daily experiences are all shaped by merely listening, reading or watching the news about the deadly epidemic that has no vaccine or cure, except for experimental.
We have become accustomed to shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries as we greet friends and acquaintances, but there’s a new reality. Most of my friends will, as always, say hello, but their hands remain safely ensconced in the pockets of their trousers. Or they might not be in the pockets, but the fact that there is no extension of the hands to call for a handshake obliquely tells you, ‘There is Ebola and a mere handshake could make me a patient.'
I remember waking up to missed calls and text messages from my brother and friends a fortnight ago. It was far into the wee hours of morning, around 4 a.m., and there was pandemonium. All I could hear from my bed were hoots of laughter and strange talks about how a water and salt solution could cure and prevent people from getting infected with Ebola.
I was deluged by a barrage of text messages telling me why it was imperative to use warm water and salt solution to take my bath as it's been discovered that the solution could act as a preventive measure against the virus. Startled by the sheer inanity of the rumor, I switched off my phone and remained glued to the local campus radio which serves us our daily diet of news.
It all turned out to be false.
Of course, it was a blatant disregard for courtesy and a joke of sorts, but the amazing thing is that many people fell into the trap of using the solution, believing in its efficacy to ward off Ebola.
There is a saying that’s gained widespread significance and acceptance among Africans, especially Nigerians:  Prevention is better than a cure. And it was partly the reason why getting thousands of Nigerians to concur with the salt-and-water news was a breeze because our minds are conditioned to believe that taking necessary precautions is the ideal in such situations.
There is this growing consciousness about the whole situation in West Africa and things cannot help but change. Awareness campaigns on radio and television stations are commonplace, and nowadays, on the streets you can see placard-wielding students or others from non-governmental organizations telling people why leading hygienic lifestyles is vital to societal well-being.
The outbreak of the virus in West Africa has actuated a myriad of changes. People avoid making body contact with others
Ebola is perched on the lips of virtually everyone – young and old alike and handshakes are dreaded like diseases.
Words like ‘virus,' ‘death,' ‘victims,' ‘quarantine,' and ‘patients' have become associated with Ebola, and we have heard them reused over and again, such that the slightest mention of any of them gets our rapt attention.
Sometimes we act like there is no disease called Ebola and get back to leading our normal lives. But a single story confirming further deaths or victims jolts us back into reality. The grim task of coming to grips with the facts leaves a sour taste in our mouths.
The statistics are not encouraging. There is a steady rise in illness and death and talk of multi-national corporations leaving the worst-hit countries out of fear of the virus.
This, and border closures which hurt trade, open up an economic dimension to the outbreak. So, beyond the health challenges posed by the virus, it appears the epidemic is having a significant and devastating impact on the economies of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
Derived from the River Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola causes an often fatal hemorrhagic fever and is highly contagious. Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. The fatality rate can reach about 90 percent, but the current outbreak has about 55 percent, according to the BBC.
Is there any hope for an Ebola patient? Yes, according to BBC reports that say supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhea and vomiting can help recovery.
Currently, Liberia is the world's worst hit by Ebola, according to statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control, with nearly 700 suspected dead.  Nigeria appears to be relatively free with just 13 confirmed cases and six deaths, according to the CDC.
Patrick Sawyer, an American from Liberia who stopped in Lagos, Nigeria on his way home from Liberia, died in July at a hospital in Lagos – a city with about 20 million residents. A doctor and nurse who cared for him in Lagos have since died of Ebola.
The governments of the affected countries and the World Health Organization are to be commended for taking the outbreak seriously and understanding that it is something which requires an urgent response.
But more awareness is crucially needed for public health as many people still refuse to admit that there is any such thing as Ebola especially in a place like Nigeria, which has been relatively low hit.
Healthcare systems should become a priority for African governments.
Some people tend to see the Ebola outbreak as something evil orchestrated by witchcraft, which goes to show why proper education is vital in the struggle to contain the disease.
Just last weekend, residents of West Point, a slum neighborhood of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, attacked a quarantine center, looting mattresses and helping suspected Ebola patients leave. Also, the recent clashes with police in areas singled out for quarantine in the same country show how little people heed government warnings about the virus.
A lot has changed with regards to social interaction in Nigeria, but we are hopeful that we'll get back to our normal way of life soon.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Gaza, Life Itself Is The Cause

Salama S. Salama / youthjournalism.org
A boy takes part in the celebration of the cease-fire in Khanyounis on Tuesday.

By Ahmad Zaqout
Reporter

KHANYOUNIS, Gaza Strip – The poet Rumi wrote that the wound is the place where the Light enters. If that is so, Gaza today is flooded with light.


The cease-fire came at 7 p.m. Jerusalem time Tuesday. It was the moment where life gave a glimpse of a smile to the more than 1.5 million people in Gaza, causing them to live every single feeling all mixed up in one heart.

But I can only speak for myself. How do I see it?





It was disturbingly surprising how we in Gaza even had the thought of celebrating after more than 2,200 souls were snatched away with no mercy in seven terrible weeks of war. And thousands more are still living the most arduous life imaginable in one of the cruelest diasporas in history.


Salama S. Salama / youthjournalism.org
After officials announced the longterm cease-fire with Israel, Gazans took to the streets to celebrate. Above, a crowd gathered on Abu Hmid street in Khanyounis on Tuesday night. In the photo below, crowds gather in celebration in Khanyounis on Tuesday, with some people waving the green flag of Hamas.

I couldn't even smile at that moment. I was joyous, yet even more sad.

I talked to random people about how they were feeling after this massacre, and all I got were vague answers that told me nothing but how confused their emotions were.

Salama S. Salama / youthjournalism.org
A father, Yassir Fayad of Khanyounis, carries his son  Khaled on his shoulders as they take part in the celebration of the cease-fire on Tuesday night. Khaled is holding a green Hamas banner in one hand and a toy gun in the other. Fayad said everyone else was out celebrating victory, so he went, too. But he said, sadly, "Another two victories and we will vanish."

I could see their sorrow in one eye and happiness in the other.

But that happiness wasn't from an end to the colossal calamity we had endured. Instead, it was a salute to all those innocents who lost their lives for the sake of dignity and freedom.

People here see hope – not in the future of the conflict nor in the future of themselves, but in the future of humanity.

Gazans appreciate life more than anyone in this world, because when you think about it, they die for such a cause. They want simply to live.

They die for the sake of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. And most importantly, they live for today.

Some may call it a victory and some may call it a loss, but in the end, it is these particular moments that make us rethink our lives.

Once you get in a storm, you never come out the same person. Gaza might have seen the worst, but Gaza said, and will always say, “NOT TODAY,” to the god of death. And for that, I shall smile.

Salama S. Salama / youthjournalism.org
Children peer out the window of a bus on the way to a celebration in Al-Saraya, the downtown section of Gaza City on Tuesday.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

St. Louis Area Teens Want Peace

By Sydney Hallett
Reporter
OAKVILLE, Missouri – More than two weeks after a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, students in a neighboring suburb aren’t sure whether the riots that followed did any good.
Students from Oakville High School, a mostly-white suburban high school in St. Louis only about a half-hour drive from Ferguson, are more familiar with the protests than most people.

With relatives who live in Ferguson and friends who go to the schools there, Oakville students have been more than informed about the rioting that went on for two weeks.

It all hit close to home with the school of 1,800 students, many of whom just want peace for the community and for St. Louis.


Sydney Hallett /
 youthjournalism.org
Emily Kearns
For awhile, the topic of Ferguson was a popular subject of discussion at Oakville, but students have now grown weary of the story that put St. Louis at the center of an international news story.
In interviews last week, however, they weighed in on the issue.
Senior Mason Goser believes that the violence that was part of the riots will “hurt the cause more than it helps.”
Sydney Hallett /
 youthjournalism.org
Shaylisa Crawford
But Emily Kearns, a sophomore, said she was glad people were taking a stand for themselves and their community.
“I think the police officers are being extremely rude to the rioters,” said Kearns. “The news reporters should stay [in Ferguson] so the people can see the police brutality that’s going on. I’m glad that people are taking action.”
Photo provided
Madeline Goser
Shaylisa Crawford, a senior, agreed with Kearns and referred to the description by some witnesses that Brown died with his hands raised in surrender.
“This isn’t right,” Crawford said. “They shot him six times knowing his hands were up. A well-trained police officer should know what that means.”
Senior Madeline Goser wasn’t surprised that there was some rioting in Ferguson.
Sydney Hallett /
youthjournalism.org
Gabrielle Wilson
“Tensions between the people and the police have been rising there for a long time, so there was only a matter of time before something happened,” Goser said. “The extra police forces and the media attention is only adding the fuel to the fire and making it worse.”
Sydney Hallett /
youthjournalism.org
Devin Jost
Gabrielle Wilson, a junior at Oakville, said protesters “need to think about and discuss the issues in a more controlled environment.”
Devin Jost, a junior at Oakville High School, said he thought the protests were getting out of hand.
“It seems as if the riots aren’t even about Michael Brown anymore,” Jost said last week.
For some students, like Brianna Quinn, a senior, protesters aren’t going to be satisfied no matter what happens.
“People are going to be mad whether the officer is guilty or not,” said Quinn. “No one really knows the true story except for the officer and the two witnesses.”

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Tears Flow In Gaza, But Of Happiness Over Cease-Fire Agreement With Israel

By Dalia Al-Najjar
Junior Reporter
KHANYOUNIS, Gaza Strip – One hour before the long-term cease-fire agreement announcement:
Cautious waiting. Wishful thinking. Everyone trying to summon up all the pain, all the sadness and all the anguish to sigh it out from our exhausted lungs.

All the bewildered eyes gazing upon the TV screen, carefully listening to every word and those tentative words scrambling to smuggle in some hope, positivity and harmless happiness.
Is it true? Is it the end of our interminable suffering? Is it the breaking dawn? Can we now brag about our miraculous surviving? Everyone silently questioned, refusing to even think of the answers as the shelling continued and people were dying.
In the last days, we were disappointed so many times.
We scarcely believe that the black cloud is fading.
After the announcement:
A roar of applause in the room. We have gained what seemed impossible just moments before. Eyes are filled with tears, but for the first time, they’re for happiness.
Exhilaration. Cheerful kids running in the streets expressing their happiness. Mosques filled with chanting. It was pure pleasure. Ironically some people were firing into the air, celebrating the relatively permanent ceasefire. But then the police came and stopped them – sadly some people were injured because of the ''happiness fires.''
Celebrations erupted once the truce took hold at 1600 GMT on Tuesday – about noon in New York – and festivities continued late into the night as we reveled in the end of seven weeks of bloody violence.
Everyone was out in the streets singing and celebrating. We’d almost forgotten how it feels to be happy.
Although it was not unsullied happiness, we had some good feelings because we knew down deep that this is merely the end of the beginning.
We know that this moment can’t fill the void created by our losses. We know we need more time and patience to put our crumpled-to-pieces selves together.
My cell phone hasn't stopped ringing. My friends called to congratulate me because we all wanted to share our feelings at that moment with our loved ones.
It's really great to see Gaza celebrating. It gives us the strength to continue struggling.     
On social media, people offered poignant expressions of happiness, joy and indescribable intertwined emotions. Most couldn't believe the fighting was over. Others cried from happiness.
Surviving this war assures us that we can make it through anything. We will rebuild Gaza, but we won't forget.
We will live with the memory of our loved ones, of our destroyed houses and of every moment of the past 50 days.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Safety Is Syrian School's Biggest Challenge

Ghazal Al Tabaa / youthjournalism.org
The Little Village School outside of Damascus, Syria. In 2012, the school relocated to a new location inside the city for safety reasons.


By Leen Othman 
Junior Reporter
DAMASCUS, Syria – The ministry of education in Syria has a key motto: We raise, then teach. It is a sentence that all teachers have reiterated to our ears over the years, all confirming the one idea that they raise generations before teaching rudimentary sciences.
 Even discipline goes into a student’s report card with a mark.
To have such an educational purpose means a society is going beyond books and pens and laws in the process of schooling children. It also means that extraordinary conditions cannot stop progress.
It’s a decision that all schools in Syria took – to keep on learning.
There is no doubt that the ongoing conflict has changed things in Syria and affected the educational structure in all its forms for students, teachers, and administrators alike. They all had to face and conquer new obstacles on a daily basis to keep on learning.
A woman who is closely in touch with these challenges is Shahrzad Saati, who is head of the Arabic department in Little Village School in Damascus.
She’s been involved with both teacher and student education for years.
Saati described the great change that affected Little Village School. One of the biggest schools in Syria, it has the advantage of teaching both foreign and Syrian curriculums fully.
The biggest change the school went through, from Saati’s perspective, was when Little Village School moved two years ago from the suburbs into small buildings inside Damascus.
The move deprived students of the use of vast playgrounds, music halls, computer labs, and various amenities that offered a better learning experience.
Since safety is the primary obstacle, Saati said the school has provided some precautions. There are shelters, she said, and steps are taken to insure the roads are safe before buses drive off carrying students.
Perhaps the main precautionary measure was changing the school's quarters as a result of it neighboring a disputed area.
According to Saati, the crisis has caused numerous problems. Students suffer from psychological pressures, she said, and they can be tiring to both teachers and administrators, who try to work with the families to provide an atmosphere of guidance if possible.
Also, some teachers have suffered from different problems, she said, such as a demolished or burnt house and in some cases, a homeless family.
It’s all reflected negatively on their teaching performance, Saati said, and caused some of them to travel abroad in search of a new position.
Asked how she keeps political or other divisions at bay among both staff and students, Saati said parents were contacted when arguments between students arose on social media.  Then, the students were guided into accepting other opinions so they couldn’t create more problems with classmates.
As for the future of learning in Syria, the nation is still fine, according to Saati. The best proof of it, she said, are Syria’s sons who prove excellence and creativity wherever they go in the world.
Education in Syria might be long, difficult, and even dangerous to achieve, but it is obvious that all Syrians are not willing to let go of it.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Journalist James Foley Put His Life On The Line For Truth And Deserves Our Respect

Journalist James Foley in Tripoli, Libya in August, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Pedneault, used with permission through the www.freejamesfoley.org website.

By Eli Winter
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – He risked his life for our news. I write this, sitting in a safe neighborhood in greater Houston, with headphones on and internet connected, far removed from any and all conflict, barring the occasional wars of words whenever my natural teenage instinct to disagree with most of what my parents say kicks in.
I write this blissfully unaware of the constant danger American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded today by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, endured throughout his reporting in the Middle East.
In a heartbreaking statement late Tuesday, his mother, Diane Foley, said her son “gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
We must give journalists like James Foley the respect they deserve, and we cannot take them for granted.
James Foley in Aleppo, Syria in July 2012,
four months before he was taken
hostage. Photo by Nicole Tung, used
with permission through the
www.freejamesfoley.org website.
And yet, in our nation, which prides itself on giving its citizens the liberty to choose for themselves to read books and raise children – to say and do anything they want unless it would bring harm to others – our nation, bestowing upon itself the dubious honor of being leader of the free world, needs to practice what it holds so dearly to its heart.
The events spawned by the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have made this painfully clear to us. Reporters have been assaulted by police, recalling the 1968 riots at that year's Democratic National Convention.
Peaceful protesters have been tear-gassed, showing shades of the ongoing Syrian conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and those who view him as corrupt.
Our truth-tellers are punished for trying to do their jobs here, just as they are abroad.
James Foley's horrific murder shows how much power two little words, "free press," can have in nations where such a thing is only an idea at best. It also shows clearly the great lengths we go to – that we must go to – to maintain it.
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What If Your New College Friends Can't Find Your Home Country On A World Map?

youthjournalism.org
YJI reporter Evangeline Han on her arrival in the United States on August 13, 2013, after a 32-hour journey with little sleep.

By Evangeline Han
Reporter
SHAWNEE, Oklahoma, U.S.A. – A year ago, I flew from my home in Melaka, Malaysia to the United States to go to college at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. I did not know a single person in Oklahoma, I had never visited the campus for a tour, and I had never been to an American college.






If this sounds familiar, then you are probably an international student just like me.  And if you are going to be an international student, I have a few tips for you.
1)    Be excited. Going to college in a foreign country is an adventure. As an international student, you are special and unique. Some of your college friends have probably never traveled outside of their state. Whether it is your accent or looks, people around you will immediately notice that you are different. You bring diversity to your college.
 2)    Be prepared for weird questions. Since there may be many students at your college who have not traveled outside of their state, most students probably do not know where your country is on the world map. Lots of them will ask questions that might seem dumb, but just smile and answer politely. You can laugh about it with your international friends later.
3)    Be prepared to work hard. There is more responsibility and the stakes are higher since you are on a student visa. The last thing you want is to be put on a plane back home because you are failing your classes and not meeting the required number of credit hours you need as an international student. Not only are you adjusting to college life, but you are also adjusting to college life in a foreign country.
4)    Be prepared to make new friends. If you are planning to adjust quickly, make new friends. Some universities, like mine, have a strong international group. This means that the likelihood of your close friends being international students is higher. Sometimes, this can be easier since they are the ones who better understand your joys and struggles. If you find that the international students in your new university do not hang out together as much as you wish they would, do not fret. It is good to make friends who are locals.
Whatever happens in the next few months, remember that it is all part of the experience. Whether you want it or not, when you return to your home country, you will be a different person. You will have seen and experienced things that your friends back home have not.
Embrace it, have fun, and live life.
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Photo Stop: Fisherman's Bastion In Hungary

Dina El Halawany / youthjournalism.org
A popular lookout spot, Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary, draws a lot of tourists. YJI's Dina El Halawany took this photo on a recent visit.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Bridge That Connects Buda And Pest

Dina El Halawany / youthjournalism.org
Spanning the Danube River and connecting Buda and Pest, the Chain Bridge was rebuilt after being damaged in World War II.
Dina El Halawany / youthjournalism.org
A view from a Danube River cruise of the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest.
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Photo Stop: The Beautiful Palace And Gardens Of Schönbrunn In Vienna, Austria

Dina El  Halawany / youthjournalism.org
On her travels in Europe, YJI reporter Dina El Halawany of Alexandria, Egypt visited the Gardens Of Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria and stopped to make this photo. 
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nigerian Students Learn How To Protect Themselves Against Deadly Ebola Virus

Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Students at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka joined in a campaign to raise awareness of the Ebola virus and how people can protect themselves from it.
Festus Iyorah
Reporter
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Students must be conscious and hygienic in order to curb the deadly Ebola virus, biochemistry, Professor Henry Onwubiko said Friday at a health conference at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
Onwubiko called on students and the university to attain consciousness and help keep the environment clean in this period of possible infection.
“The global world has really entered a period of insurgence in infectivity, a stage where viruses and pathogen thrives in the society and students needs to attain consciousness and be hygienic,” Onwubiko said.
Festus Iyorah / 
youthjournalism.org
Professor Henry Onwubiko
His lecture, “War against Ebola virus” was part of the health conference, which included the biochemistry department.
Before the conference, biochemistry students staged a campaign around the university hoisting placards and banner emblazoned with words sensitizing people on the deadly Ebola virus.
Ofurum who is also a third-year student of Biochemistry urged other department in the university to join the campaign against the Ebola virus disease and the university should also organize lectures, seminars and conference  to stop the deadly virus from spreading.
Festus Iyorah /youthjournalism.org
Students at the University of Nigeria in
Nsukka 
take part in an educational campaign
to raise 
awareness 
of Ebola.
Onwubiko, who is also a researcher looking into the disease, said the university has a big role to play to curtail this disease, including education, proper research and establishment of a disease control center.
“The university needs to be connected to the center of disease control and our laboratory needs to be equipped for proper research on the virus,” Onwubiko said. “The university should also help in orientating the students on how to increase their level of consciousness towards the virus.”
Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Okechukwu Ochulor
One of the conference organizers, 20-year-old Okechukwu Ochulor, said general ignorance about the Ebola virus spurred the biochemistry department to hold the event. He said there is a need to sensitize students on the proper measures to take in order to prevent the scourge of the virus from entering the university.
“The love we have for our fellow student is what motivated us to organize this conference,” Ochulor said.
Students who attended the conference were excited about the opportunity. 
“I feel good about this conference, though I’ve been hearing rumours about Ebola virus,” said Dominic Igwebuike, 22. Afterward, he said he’d learned a lot.
Festus Iyorah /
 youthjournalism.org
Dominic Igwebuike
“From this conference I’ve learnt that people can still survive this virus if reported on time, unlike before when I used to think that someone cannot survive the virus,” said Favour Ofurum, 20.
According to the World Health Organization, Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the other in Sudan.
Festus Iyorah /
youthjournalism.org

Favour Ofurum
The virus, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, has a death rate of up to 90 percent. It is transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids, according to the WHO, and there is not yet a vaccine to prevent it. Health workers and family members of those with the virus are most likely to become infected.
The Daily Sun, a national newspaper in Nigeria, recently reported that a nurse who had contact with an American doctor who died of Ebola, had skipped quarantine and travelled to Enugu, a few miles away from the Nsukka campus, which roused fear among students.
Aside from sensitizing people on what the World Health Organization has tagged the “most deadly virus,” the conference also dealt with how to prevent the virus from spreading.
Festus Iyorah / youthjournalism.org
Biodiversity conference participants at the
University 
of 
Nigeria in Nsukka.
Onwubiko said the university must take responsibility by clearing the environment, especially the toilets, where bodily fluids such as urine and saliva can be found. He also charged the university to take the campaign against the virus seriously.
To students, Onwubiko said education is more than reading and writing, but also means developing consciousness, and taking responsibility for taking care of themselves and others in order to stop the deadly virus.
Organizer Ochulor, who is a third-year biochemistry student, said students should dress properly by wearing long sleeves and hand gloves in order to avoid body contact. And, he said, security officials should ensure good seating arrangements in the buses and cabs that students use for transportation.
Ochulor said the university should take this spread of Ebola seriously through lectures and seminars on the virus.

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