Plague far from home

by Bill Boyle
I have received a number of inquiries about my brother, Scott Boyle. Scott and his wife Cassie recently retired and headed off on an adventure of a lifetime as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Madagascar. (I guess that writing the weekly Sports Shorts column in the San Juan Record for more than a decade wasn’t enough excitement.)
Scott and Cassie have been hard at work in the mission home in Antananarivo. Cassie is the mission nurse, with responsibility to keep the missionaries healthy throughout the sprawling area.
Their work has taken a twist in recent months as the country has fought an outbreak of plague.
In the past week, notice came that the missionaries would be evacuated off the island because of the outbreak.
Just the word plague strikes fear in the hearts of people across the globe.
However, it is quite treatable if diagnosed quickly. Less than two years ago, a man from San Juan County died of the plague after experiencing several weeks of flu-like symptoms but not going to a doctor.
Scott writes, “The plague springs up every year in Madagascar, but this year it is a little more aggressive it seems.  Instead of the countryside, it is in the cities. 
“The good news is that plague is very treatable if caught in time.  And, one of the medicines that is often given when plague is suspected is doxyclycline, the stuff we are already taking for malaria.
“The plague is still here, there have been about 50 deaths in the country with about 300 infected.  So we are being very vigilant.”
Since the evacuation notice, they were busy closing the office and coordinating the transfer of nearly 100 missionaries to areas throughout the world.
The evacuation notification came on Thursday and all of the missionaries had flown out by Sunday night.
It was an incredibly complicated effort to move so many people so far in such a short time under very stressful and uncertain conditions.
I am proud of these two!
Scott writes, “Our hearts broke again as we said goodbye to all those wonderful missionaries and the amazing Malagasy people we have come to know and love.  We will never be the same after experiencing all of this.”
Scott and Cassie have moved to Reunion Island, which is another island in the mission.
Madagascar, an isolated island off the east coast of Africa, is about as far away as you can get from San Juan County.
In fact, the capital of Antananarivo is 17,197 miles from home. It is literally the farthest large city on earth from home.
Now they are on Reunion Island, which is even farther from home (17,806 miles, to be exact).
In contrast to Madagascar, Reunion is a French state and is the most developed area in the region. Their first stop after landing on Reunion Island? McDonalds.
• • • • •
From the earliest days, Bluff has always been a place of strong opinions.
This has almost been a necessity, since carving out a community on the edge of the frontier is never an easy task.
From the first days in 1880, the little town has always been the meeting point of people and ideas.
Now, more than 137 years later, Bluff is still the most diverse community in San Juan County. Bluff seems to attract the greenest of the green and the reddest of the red necks.
There are challenges related to competing cultures, whether they be Anglo and Native populations, conservationist and pro-development, wealthy and poor, Mormon and non-Mormon, or Republican vs. Democrat.
These differences can be interesting and hard work on solving issues can lead to positive solutions. In addition, they can also create all sorts of problems.
Best of luck to the residents of Bluff on their decision.

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