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North Texas Missionary Returns From Liberia

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) –  A North Texan who was in Liberia for missionary work returned to Texas amidst the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.

Dr. Todd Phillips, executive director of thelastwell.org, has been traveling to Liberia for 6 years to build clean water wells  for the country’s villages and “connect them with Christ and local churches.”

Though he knew of the ebola outbreak before leaving on July 23rd, he never imagined it would escalate in such a short time.

“On talk radio in Liberia there would 123 deaths. The following morning there would be 171 so it was increasing at an alarming rate,” he said.

Phillips believes there are several factors that have contributed to the widespread outbreak of the virus.
One, he said, is a distrust of the government. Villagers at first denied the outbreak was really happening, until recently when the number of fatalities began dramatically increasing.

The other part of that, he said, is the Liberian government has been going to villages where Ebola is present to sanitize the village.

“They think the country is coming to hurt them or harm them so they’ll keep them from actually going into the village that is actually to do what is actually going to help the rest of the villagers survive,” Phillips said.

Lastly, centuries old burial rituals, which involve rubbing bodies and coming into contact with bodily fluids have also contributed.

“Friends and family members, caregivers in those villages, are dying and contracting that from dead bodies because they are not following new safety protocols,” Phillips said.

Phillips said a shift in the country’s culture began Thursday.

Handshakes and hugs became taboo and more people were retreating and staying inside their homes.

“By the time we left, there were wash stations in and out of every door, every subdoor inside the facilities. The government had shut down. The school had shut down. The border had shut down,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he was concerned over the past 48 hours that might not have been able to leave the country, but he made it out after a long screening process.

Passengers’ temperatures are taken with an electronic sensor and are asked a series of questions. If they are able to follow through with that process, passengers are allowed in to the airport gates, Phillips said.

The ebola outbreak will not deter thelastwell.org from returning to the country. Phillips said they plan to return but are unsure when.

“About 130 have died of ebola in Liberia, just on the borders of Liberia over the 5 month period since it began,” Philips said.

“That’s same number a day that are dying from water borne illnesses in the same country and it gets no national press, it doesn’t even local press for that matter.

So this silent killer is killing more in a week than the entire ebola crisis over the last 5 months so that’s why we’re going back,” Phillips said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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