When a leper walked abroad, in a town or a village, in both mediaeval times and much closer to the present day, they carried a bell. Some believe that the bell’s ring was to warn those in the leper’s path that the dread disease was near, and to evacuate from the carrier’s path. Others propose that because leprosy affects the speech centres just as much as the scabrous lumps and hideous disfigurements, the bell rings were used to state that the leper wished either service or help, and the appropriate prophylactic measures be adopted; such as a the breaking of a used plate or cup, or a mask over the mouth and nose. Whether the bell was for warning or as a signal for help, most believe that the systems evolved from religious leaders who, driven by compassion for their fellow man, organised the bell as a device to bring the sufferer into even a limited contact with their worried but sympathetic neighbours.
So when the Sierra Leone and EU leaders announced, to both a reverse shouted count-down at the stroke of midnight along with the no-doubt usual ululations from the native population, the news that Sierra Leone was Ebola free, there weren’t many comments thanking Great Britain’s massive contribution to that happy state. From the arrival of RFA Argus with Army and Marines on board, the total of over 800 military and medical people have built six complete hospital treatment-centres, staffed them, treated all who were brought from the bush, villages and towns alike with precision, care and efficiency, and saved an entire Nation from disaster. And the thanks we get? Not one sentence from any local politician mentioning the sacrifice, the bravery, the devotion to duty of the British military medical teams, the helicopter crews and the maintenance teams aboard RFA Argus who, together, broke the epidemic, trained the locals from base zero, and delivered a Nation from a disease with a death rate approaching eighty percent.
And as we were talking about lepers and warnings, I propose that when ‘Nurse Pauline Cafferkey’ is eventually released from the London hospital where she is at present recovering from Ebola generated meningitis, and returns to Scotland, she is forced to wear a big bell around her stupid silly neck; so as to warn anyone within a hundred yards that a really thick, self-promoting clown is in the immediate vicinity!