Africa

WHO employee to receive treatment in Hamburg for Ebola

Alexandra Hudson, Media Coulibaly, Umaru Fofana

A Senegalese epidemiologist who contracted Ebola while working for the organisation. The current outbreak has killed at least 120 healthcare workers.

MSF health workers prepare at ELWA's hospital isolation camp in Monrovia. (Reuters)

An employee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone will be flown to the German city of Hamburg for treatment, a spokesperson for the city said.

Rico Schmidt, spokesperson for the Hamburg health senate, said the patient would arrive later on Wednesday and be treated at Hamburg university clinic’s tropical medicine institute. The WHO in Geneva said the patient was a Senegalese epidemiologist.

One of the deadliest diseases known to man, Ebola is transmitted by contact with body fluids. The current outbreak has killed at least 120 healthcare workers.

The WHO has deployed nearly 400 of its own staff and partner organisations to fight the epidemic of the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever, which has struck Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.

On Tuesday it said it had shut a laboratory in Sierra Leone after the Senegalese epidemiologist became infected, a move that may hamper efforts to boost the global response to the worst ever outbreak of the disease.

At least 1 427 people have died and 2 615 have been infected since the disease was detected deep in the forests of southeastern Guinea in March. 

WHO withdraws staff
The WHO has deployed nearly 400 of its own staff and partner organisations to fight the epidemic of the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever, which has struck Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. A separate outbreak was confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday.

Nigeria’s health minister said on Tuesday his country had “thus far contained” the Ebola outbreak.

One of the deadliest diseases known to man, Ebola is transmitted by contact with body fluids. The current outbreak has killed at least 120 healthcare workers.

The WHO said it had withdrawn staff from the laboratory testing for Ebola at Kailahun – one of only two in Sierra Leone – after Tuesday’s incident.

“It’s a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers,” WHO spokesperson Christy Feig said, without specifying how long the measure would last. “After our assessment, they will return.”

Feig said she could not assess what impact the withdrawal of WHO staff would have on the fight against Ebola in the Kailahun, the area hardest hit by the disease. In a later statement the organisation said that staff would return after an investigation was completed, adding that testing would continue in the meantime at the Kenema laboratory.

Separately, public health agency of Canada spokesperson Sean Upton said late on Tuesday the agency was planning to withdraw its three-person mobile laboratory team from Sierra Leone. The agency could not confirm immediately whether the lab was a different one from the laboratory that the WHO closed.

The Canadian team was recalled because three people in their hotel complex were diagnosed with Ebola, although Upton said none of the Canadians had direct contact with any of the sick people and were not showing any symptoms of Ebola.

Limited resources for Congo
With its resources stretched by the West African outbreak, medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Tuesday it could provide only limited help to tackle Congo’s outbreak.

A report from the UN mission in Congo on Tuesday said 13 people there had died from Ebola, including five health workers.

Congo said on Sunday it would quarantine the area around the town of Djera, in the isolated northwestern jungle province of Equateur, where a high number of suspected cases has been reported. It is Congo’s seventh outbreak since Ebola was discovered in 1976 in Equateur, near the Ebola river.

Congo’s Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said on Sunday the outbreak in Equateur was a different strain of the virus from the deadly Zaire version in West Africa, although further tests are planned in a German laboratory.

“Usually, we would be able to mobilise specialist haemorrhagic fever teams, but we are currently responding to a massive epidemic in West Africa,” said Jeroen Beijnberger, MSF medical co-ordinator in Congo. “This is limiting our capacity to respond to the epidemic in Equateur Province.”

However, the charity said it would send doctors, nurses and logistics experts to the region and would work with the government to open an Ebola case management centre in Lokolia.

MSF can’t do it alone’
Louise Roland-Gosselin, deputy head of mission for MSF in Congo, said Congolese Ebola experts working in West Africa should return to their own country to assist with the outbreak there. “MSF can’t do it alone,” she said.

The WHO plans to send protective equipment for medical staff in Equateur.

A 65-year-old woman with Ebola-like symptoms died in Equateur’s capital Mbandaka, health workers said on Tuesday, raising concerns of a possible spread to an urban centre.

Health Minister Kabange Numbi confirmed the death but said the cause was not yet known. – Reuters

Topics In This Section

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus