Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sierra Leone's 365 Deaths From Ebola Linked Back To Just One Woman

It has laid waste to the tribal chiefdoms of Sierra Leone, leaving hundreds dead, but the Ebola crisis began with just one healer's claims to special powers.

The outbreak need never have spread from Guinea, health officials revealed, except for a herbalist in the remote eastern border village of Sokoma.

'She was claiming to have powers to heal Ebola. Cases from Guinea were crossing into Sierra Leone for treatment,' said Mohamed Vandi, the top medical official in the hard-hit district of Kenema.

'She got infected and died. During her funeral, women around the other towns got infected.'

Ebola has killed more than 1,350 people since it emerged in southern Guinea at the start of the year, spreading first to Liberia and cutting a gruesome and gory swathe through eastern Sierra Leone since May.

Experts are now being offered £6.5 million to find ways to save the lives of people struck down by the Ebola virus.
Crumpled photographs of dead nurses cover noticeboards on the flaking walls outside the maternity unit and in the administration block.

Twelve nurses have been among 277 people to die since the first case showed up in Kenema hospital. A further ten have been infected with Ebola and survived.
Sierra Leonese government burial team members wearing protective clothing stand next to the coffin of Dr Modupeh Cole, Sierra Leone's second senior physician to die of Ebola in Kailahun
'The nurses who lost their lives and those who got infected would never have gone in knowing that they would get infected,' Vandi, the district medical officer, said.

'We are fighting a battle that is new. Ebola is new here and we are all learning as we go along.'
The first case at the hospital was a woman who had partially miscarried, having probably passed the virus to her unborn child.

The facility boasts the only Lassa fever isolation unit in the world, set apart from the main building, and a makeshift Ebola unit was quickly set up there.

It was then that the nurses began dying.
As head sister of the Lassa fever ward for more than 25 years, Mbalu Fonnie was credited with attending to more haemorrhagic fever patients than anyone in the world.

She had survived Lassa fever herself, but was no match for the Ebola virus when it got into her bloodstream from a patient in July.

She was dead within days, along with fellow nurses Alex Moigboi and Iye Gborie, and ambulance driver Sahr Niokor.

The deaths prompted a strike of 100 nurses, who complained of poor management of the Ebola centre.
'Wherever the Ebola virus strikes for the first time, there is a heavy toll on healthcare workers because they don't have experience with it,' Vandi said.

'The Ebola virus is deadly and unforgiving. The slightest mistake you make, you will get infected.'

Chinese doctors wear masks before working at the King Harman Road Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Two medical staff are bringing a weak patient who has been in contact with people infected with Ebola to the admission


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