Many of you will no doubt be wondering about the worldwide reports of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and region. I am currently in UK but am keeping up with the situation. From the beginning one of the most challenging aspects of this outbreak has been the ignorance of the people; lack of basic education and knowledge of disease transmission – it is rumoured to be caused by witchcraft. Patients and bodies were forcibly removed from isolation centres by relatives who wanted to conduct traditional burial rites, not understanding that direct contact with an infected person or body would transmit the disease. Rumours also circulated that if you reported to an isolation centre that you would be given drugs to ‘put you to sleep’.
Radio stations have been used to try to spread the message that good hygiene and not touching infected persons is the way to stop the disease spreading.
Internationally there is the worry that an infected person may travel and spread the infection. The airport in Freetown has introduced screening of departing passengers for raised temperatures and recent travel patterns, so this should reduce this risk.
An outbreak like this in a country with such rudimentary infrastructure is bound to be difficult to deal with. The international community are providing assistance and hopefully these efforts will begin to contain the disease.