Boxes of supplies stacked high in his office, Lebanon ophthalmologist Albert Alley is preparing for his next trip overseas. He founded World Blindness Outreach in 1990 and travels around the world with a team of doctors curing blindness.
He plans to visit West Africa in March of 2015 to operate on people who have problems seeing. But, his trip may have to be canceled because of the Ebola outbreak. So far nearly a thousand people have died from the virus in West Africa.
The director of the center for disease control and prevention calls this the most complex outbreak in history. Dr. Alley plans to visit Ghana. Currently there are no known cases in Ghana. Saudi Arabia recently joined the list of countries with suspected cases.
“We certainly have to be respectful of the danger of that disease,” say Dr. Alley.
This isn’t the first time Dr. Alley’s trip has been in jeopardy. He and his team planned to travel to Egypt but had to cancel because of the ongoing war.
“There are so many areas in the world that need our help that there’s no reason for us to take our personnel into an area where they’re at a definite risk,” says Dr. Alley.
Dr. Alley isn’t worried about an Ebola outbreak in the US. He says our treatment is much more aggressive.
“Their lives are so different than ours. The diseases that they have that are contacted many times are preventable, they are treatable for us living in this part of the world but over there they’re exposed to it and affected by it and it’s very saddening,” says Dr. Alley.
He says 80% of blindness in that part of the world is preventable, but countries like Ghana, don’t have the resources to do so. He hopes doctors can stop the spread of Ebola before his visit so he can give health officials in Ghana the means to treat the diseases, like cataracts, which he’s hoping to put an end to.
To date, Dr. Alley and his team have carried out missions in 25 countries and completed more than 10,000 eye operations. Dr. Alley says he’s going to wait and see what happens in the coming months in terms of the spread of Ebola. He says if he has to cancel he will reschedule when the disease is not as prevalent.