Over a year after opening our first Ebola Treatment Unit in West Africa, the focus remains on maintaining zero new Ebola cases. We are also working to support survivors and strengthen local health care systems for a better future.
Our Ebola response consists of a broad range of services, including:
Rebuilding Health Care Infrastructure
International Medical Corps is working to strengthen local health care systems in Ebola-affected countries to lift the overall level of care and to better prepare these nations for future public health emergencies, including a possible infectious disease outbreak such as Ebola. We support screening and referral units (SRUs) at hospitals and clinics, which require all staff, patients and visitors to be screened for Ebola-like symptoms prior to entering the facility. Anyone exhibiting signs of the virus is isolated and referred for further observation, testing and—if needed—treatment. We are providing material and technical support to health facilities to ensure that they are better equipped to respond to a potential resurgence of Ebola or another infectious disease, treat survivors, and effectively provide better day-to-day care.
Over the past year, International Medical Corps has provided high-quality training for local staff, partners, and other NGOs. Together with Massachusetts General Hospital, International Medical Corps developed a curriculum drawing from groups including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The resulting curriculum provides a broad-based training strategy to inform, protect, and guide health workers unfamiliar with the Ebola Virus Disease.
As we enter a new stage in the response, International Medical Corps will continue its work to improve the capacity of health workers to respond to a potential infectious disease outbreak. Current and planned programming will offer training on infection prevention and control (IPC), Ebola-related sequelae, and other skill sets needed to strengthen the health system overall.
For the past year, our team has played a key role in providing psychosocial support, counselling, and care to admitted Ebola patients, survivors and their families. Mental health and psychosocial support programs in the next response stage will focus on support for survivors.
In addition, our psychosocial specialists will continue to reach out to local communities to discuss the myths that surround Ebola and the importance of seeking medical attention if ill. They will also work to promote integration of Ebola survivors.
At the height of the epidemic, International Medical Corps operated five Ebola Treatment Units in two countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola-related programs, such as the establishment of rapid response teams and IPC training, spanned five West African countries, including the three nations at the heart of the outbreak, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. We also operate in Mali, which suffered a brief, minor outbreak late last year, and in Guinea-Bissau, which remains Ebola free but is considered vulnerable to the epidemic.
Both Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia have closed and the last one in Sierra Leone is set to do so by the end of February 2016. In the coming year, International Medical Corps will be partnering with governments and other stakeholders to support an in-country response to a potential epidemic and to address a wide array of issues—from food security to survivor care—that remain in the outbreak’s wake.
NEW: Public Health Experts Conclude Research Conducted at Heart of West Africa’s Ebola Outbreak Can Provide Valuable Guidance in Preparing for Future Emergencies
The recent Ebola outbreak prompted International Medical Corps to begin the EVD Research Project, which conducts clinical and social science research related to EVD. Our research contributes to global learning for improved response capacity and management of pandemics and epidemics and informs our own future work.
The EVD Research Project utilizes existing data routinely collected in International Medical Corps Ebola treatment facilities in the context of patient care, laboratory testing, and epidemiologic investigations to analyze the effectiveness of different diagnostic and treatment strategies. This analysis then contributes to evidence-based guidelines for the comprehensive management of patients with suspected and confirmed EVD.
Over the course of the last year, International Medical Corps opened five ETUs, which cumulatively cared for over 2,500 patients, and dozens of Screening and Referral Units (SRUs), which have cared for thousands more. Over 25,000 patient charts containing epidemiologic, clinical, psychosocial, and operational data have been collected by International Medical Corps during the course of its Ebola response, and this data will be used to answer a variety of questions about the best methods for diagnosing EVD, predicting mortality, and optimizing clinical and psychosocial care in the context of an EVD outbreak.