An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has spread to Guinea’s capital and beyond its borders with 154 patients suspected of contracting the virus and 84 deaths. Although most victims have been in Guinea, local health authorities have also reported cases of Ebola in Liberia with one death attributed to the disease to date. The National Ministry of Health and partners in Sierra Leone believe that vulnerable communities in this neighboring country also stand a high risk of contracting the disease given the prevalence of cross border activities between Sierra Leone and Guinea.
International Medical Corps began providing humanitarian support in 1999 in Sierra Leone where our teams today are implementing a five-year supplemental nutrition assistance program. The program uses Care Groups with Lead Mothers who travel from home-to-home in their communities to share lifesaving health and hygiene information aimed at preventing malnutrition and increasing health status. In response to the Ebola outbreak, International Medical Corps’ Care Groups are intensifying essential hygiene action activities in the villages they serve with a focus on Ebola awareness, prevention and surveillance.
International Medical Corps is disseminating the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on Ebola throughout our project areas. Our teams have identified areas most at risk are Kailahun District followed by Koinadugu, Bombali and Tonkolili. International Medical Corps will provide basic protection equipment for our staff including Lead Mothers, Health Promoters and District Supervisors. In addition, we will identify basic protective equipment gaps that may be present in health facilities in our program areas. International Medical Corps is also gathering information on the need for logistics support for mass mobilization, sensitization on Ebola, and training of health workers.
Ebola is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
No vaccine for Ebola is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids.