CDC Responds to the 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Ruth

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Photo: Senior health communications Ruth

For Ruth, it’s not her title or paycheck that affirms her career choice. It’s a simple hug and kiss.

Ruth is a senior health communications specialist in CDC’s Center for Global Health. She has been working with foreign governments on various public health messages for more than thirty years. Her job has taken her to Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. After a recent communications training session in South Africa, several participants hugged and kissed her as they left. “There were things that were troubling them about communications issues,” she says. They told her she had helped answer their questions, and they were excited to take that information back out into the field. “That lets you know you are doing your job when someone thanks you in such a personal way. It is very moving.”

Ruth recently prepared to deploy for her next CDC assignment, working on Ebola communications with the Ministry of Health in Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria is one of five countries in West Africa that have had recent Ebola cases. In Nigeria, the virus was first introduced via a traveler from Liberia. Understandably, the introduction of Ebola into a densely populated country like Nigeria raises a lot of concerns. She hopes to foster a deeper understanding of Ebola, and to teach residents how they can protect themselves and others. “I think it is important to get really clear messages out to the community and reduce the stigma issues arising not just in Nigeria, not just in West Africa, but around the world,” she says.

Ruth’s first trip to Nigeria was three decades ago, but the circumstances for this visit are very different. “Nigeria has an enormous population and the fact that Ebola cases have occurred in Lagos, one of the most populated cities in the world, means it is important to get it under control and keep it well contained.”

It’s a task Ruth considers her calling. She explains, “It is not a vacation, you work 12-14 hours. You do it in the name of public health. I came into public health because people are dying. If I can do my part to save one life it is worth it.”