By Jennifer Schlueter
As Beacon Media is supporting the Kposowa foundation in their efforts to stop the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Hindo Kposowa, the foundation’s local representative, just informed us that as of December 19th, 997 Ebola cases have been recorded for this month. The daily number of infections ranges between 25 and 93 for December.
Beacon also talked to Dr. Suzanne Donovan, Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA and Director of Infection Control Olive View UCLA Medical Center, who, in August, was invited by the World Health Organization “to be a consultant on the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone both as an infectious diseases specialist and an expert in infection control.” Dr. Donovan helped train nurses and other health care workers “on how to protect themselves with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment),” as she says. According to her, an alarming “70% of the national health care workers have died” from Ebola.
Dr. Donovan believes that “[t]he best way to stop Ebola in its tracks is early is aggressive action when there are a few cases with isolation, treatment and contact tracing of every contact of each case.” She adds: “This outbreak became an unprecedented epidemic for a few reasons — West Africa had no experience with Ebola previously, the countries’ health and public health infrastructure were severely damaged by civil strife, international aid was delayed, and the outbreak occurred in densely populated urban areas versus prior outbreaks in Africa that were constrained to rural villages. Traditional practices such as burials, where mourners are exposed to the virus, also are a significant factor in transmission.”
While in Sierra Leone, some of Donovan’s colleagues became infected. She keeps in touch with a group of national and international health care workers and plans to return “to West Africa in 2015 to continue clinical and training efforts.” Donovan also told us that she “was moved by the large number of orphans that are now in these countries. Many villages do not want them to return because of stigma associated with this infection. Schools are closed and the traditional social structure has imploded at the village on religious, school and social levels, i.e. soccer, a big national passion, is suspended.”
For a few months now, Hindo has been leading a team that not only educates villagers in and around the Bumpe district about Ebola, but also supplies them with hand-washing stations consisting of buckets, Dettol, and chlorine. Additionally, Hindo assists and trains contact tracers, who follow up on all people who have been in close interaction with Ebola patients. Two weeks ago, we reported that the Bumpe district had only seen five Ebola cases – the lowest number in Sierra Leone at that time. However, before Hindo’s sensitization efforts could reach the surrounding Baomahun village, a nurse from Freetown that had returned to the village, died there and effect several people, mounting the number of cases in our focus area to 27. Seven of the newly infected people have survived, others are still on treatment. As Hindo’s team heard of this, he told us that they “distributed buckets and chlorine to each household in two villages” and “are tracing more contacts.”
Hindo’s latest message reads: “We held a meeting in Kpetema town – an Ebola hotspot town. We have decided to observe a one day lockdown for this town to do a house-to-house check for sick people. For the past two months this town hasn’t been free from having to quarantine homes or folks dying from Ebola. We are taking a non-diplomatic measure this time to free them.” He also explains five challenges Sierra Leone is experiencing nationwide: A delay in transporting patients to quarantine homes and collecting suspected patients, ineffectiveness of security personnel in quarantine homes or areas and of disease surveillance by contract tracers, and the late- or non-disclosure of patient results.
If you want to support Hindo, please go to www.healwestafrica.com for more information and on how you can help. He told us: “Please, if there are any possibilities of wiring a reasonable sum to us here, it will be great! We want to buy and help provide food, buckets, dettol, chlorine, medicines and clothes for Ebola orphans. The earlier, the better!”