Ebola, a threatening disease for health workers

Publicado: 25 junio 2014 11:23 CET

By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

Pierre Kabouro, a nurse living in Tekoulo, a village located just 25 kilometres from Gueckedou where the first cases of Ebola virus disease in Guinea were reported, is anxious and scared.

He is not suffering from Ebola but did have contact with a patient who was sick.

“I did not know that he was suffering from Ebola. It was only a few days later, after his death that I knew he had died from Ebola,” explains Kabouro. “We are in a forested area where malaria is endemic, so when he came to me for a medical consultation, I thought it was malaria.”

Ebola is highly contagious and deadly, with a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. It is only spread through direct contact with sweat, saliva, blood, or other bodily secretions of infected persons. Among those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Because of his close contact with an infected person, Kabouro is among those who is now being closely watched by volunteers with the Red Cross Society of Guinea during the period of incubation which lasts between two and 21 days.

“Every day that passes without feeling any pain or fever is solace,” says Kabouro. “Most of the time, I spend the whole night without sleeping. I am scared to die.”

“This is the first time Ebola has surfaced in Guinea, so the population and the medical staff were not prepared for it,” says Dr Lambert Boteya, a member of the health team deployed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Red Cross Society of Guinea in stopping the spread of the virus, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners.

At least a dozen health workers are among those infected, most likely because, as Dr Boteya explains, “they didn’t know what they were dealing with.” Some have died. Because they were not aware of the Ebola virus disease, they did not take precautions such as wearing personal protection equipment like gloves, masks and goggles when caring for patients.

Kabouro is counting the remaining week for the period of incubation with nervousness while praying to stay alive.

“I have three children and the eldest is only nine. Who will take care of them if I die? In the beginning, people avoided me but now, thanks to the sensitization organized by the Red Cross, they have started to greet me again, even if they don’t shake my hand.”

As of 3 June, 113 people have died from the Ebola virus disease in Guinea, according to the Ministry of Health. With 178 confirmed cases, and the high mortality rate, there is a strong chance that figure will rise. A larger number of people have also been diagnosed with haemorrhagic fever, but not all those cases have been confirmed as Ebola.

The Red Cross has launched emergency response and/or preparedness operations in six West African countries which have been affected by the Ebola virus disease outbreak (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone), or are at risk of being affected (Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal). These operations are expected to reach up to 10 million people.