Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – Thursday, March 17, 2016, two patients who were tested and were found to have Ebola have been hospitalized in ALIMA’s Emergency Ebola Treatment Center in N’Zérékoré, south-east Guinea. They are the first reported cases since the end of the epidemic was announced in the country on December 29, 2015. Sory Keita, nurse and project coordinator has extensive experience responding to humanitarian crises. He explains the challenges faced by ALIMA’s teams.
What is the situation?
Last Thursday, we received a warning from health authorities who feared that two people had contracted an hemorrhagic fever in the village of Koropara, located nearly a hundred kilometers from N’Zérékoré.
Everything changed within hours. We held an emergency meeting with the medical team of N’Zérékoré’s hospital to reopen the Ebola Treatment Center which has a capacity of ten beds. Luckily we had kept the Centre, where patients were treated when the epidemic touched the region in 2014-2015, on “stand by”. We remain prepared in case the center had to be opened in the 90-day period of enhanced surveillance.The majority of the medical staff in the area had gained some experience in dealing with Ebola during the outbreak.
We went over security measures especially infection control measures and patient flow and we made sure that the pharmacy was supplied with medicines and medical equipment in sufficient quantity. Moreover, with the arrival of additional medical staff, we have been able to provide intensive care within 24 hours.
Both patients accompanied by their families were supported very quickly and calmly.
How did the community react?
There is obviously some sadness because it is always a difficult time when a family is mourning and is at the same time facing a serious illness. Four people have already died in recent weeks.
Each new sick person can generate contacts and potential additional cases. Therefore, it is essential to ensure a strong surveillance of people who have been in contact with sick people and strengthen epidemiological surveillance to contain the epidemic in addition to providing adequate care as quickly as possible to those who need it.
Today, families in the village of Koropora are mobilized to stop the spread of the epidemic as rapidly as possible.
What is the biggest challenge for ALIMA’s teams?
We are starting from scratch, side by side with the community. Our priority is to maintain a good relationship with the community and ensure their trust in health services. While everyone has some experience in managing an Ebola response, outreach teams from partner organizations will raise awareness on the importance of maintaining good hygiene and encourage people to call an emergency contact numberif they are experiencing symptoms such as fever, vomiting, headache, etc.
As we did in the past, we will continue to invite families to visit hospitalized patients as well as offer psychosocial support. Our center should not be seen as a place of isolation, but as a place to find help.
We have strengthened the medical team with the arrival of a pediatrician and an anesthesiologist to provide the best possible care to our patients.
At this time, the investigation and epidemiological monitoring are still ongoing and it difficult to determine the extent of the outbreak. We remain ready to respond to the needs.
In October 2014, ALIMA set up an Ebola treatment center in Nzérékore and treated nearly 150 patients during the epidemic. It currently provides medical care and psycho-social support to nearly 115 Ebola survivors. Since July 2015, the organization supports the pediatrics wards and emergency room of Nzrékoré Regional Hospital.