British, Cuban, Chinese Teams Fight
Ebola in Sierra Leone
As international medical teams have come into Sierra Leone in
recent weeks Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone gradually is
being taken out of the hands of the Government of Sierra Leone.
A 165-man medical team from Cuba arrived in Freetown on October 3 to
join the Ebola fight. The team comprises 63 doctors and 102 other
specialists including nurses.
A contingent of British army engineers and medics arrived in Sierra
Leone at the end of September to participate in the British plan to
create 700 new beds for Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone. The British
army medics are apparently intended for an Ebola treatment unit that
will be reserved for medical personnel who come down with the disease.
Separately, as many as 160 volunteers from the British National Health
Service are said to
have volunteered to come to Freetown to staff the new Ebola Treatment
Center being constructed in the suburb of Kerry Town.
Earlier in September a 59-member Chinese medical team arrived in Sierra
Leone to help in the Ebola battel. They will all be based at the new
Chinese Friendship Hospital at Jui, in the eastern outskirts of
Freetown, which has been converrted by the Chinese from a general
hospital to an Ebola treatment facility.
In Kenema a new Ebola treatment facility has started operations, run by
the Red Cross, with international staffing. In Kailahun MSF continues
operations at its Ebola treatment center, again headed by international
The number of doctors in these different facilities rivals Sierra
total complement of indigenous doctors, and the international personnel
will all be working
on the Ebola outbreak. By contrast, the only full-fledged,
government-run Ebola treatment center (as opposed to 'holding' center
or 'isolation' center) in the country appears to be the newly
established facility at the Hastings Police Training School. The Kenema
Ebola center, previously government run and colocated with the
government hospital has been relocated and taken over by the Red Cross.
The picture with the crucial laboratory facilities, without which a
confirmed diagnosis of Ebola can not be made, is similar. Of the four
or five Ebola testing labs in the country, all are run by foreign
organisations. The Chinese have brought in two, at least one of which
is being used at their hospital in Jui. The South Africans are
operating one at Lakka, outside Freetown. The US CDC was last
reported to be operating the Kenema Ebola lab, and the Canadian
public health agency continues to operate the lab in Kailahun.
All of this foreign support is most welcome. It will allow the
government to concentrate on resuscistating health care for non-Ebola
patients, which had virtually collapsed. Non-Ebola patients had been
reluctant to visit health centers, for fear of inadvertently
contracting Ebola, and many health centers had themselves elected to
suspend operations, rather than run the risk of inadvertently starting
treatment on a patient later discovered to be infected with Ebola. In
some cases health care workers had abandoned facilities.
However, all the foreign support for Ebola treatment, welcome as it is,
not by itself end the outbreak. The epidemic is being fuelled
by new infections arising within the communities, under circumstances
that have been well elaborated: relatives
harboring/treating Ebola patients at home, and burial rituals involving
close contact with highly infectious Ebola corpses. Unless
these sources of new infections can be brought under control, the
treatment centers will merely be responding to an ever-widening