Authorities in Sierra Leone said yesterday that another doctor there has tested positive for ebola, marking a setback for efforts to keep desperately needed health care workers safe in the West African country ravaged by the deadly virus.
Government chief medical Officer Dr Brima Kargbo confirmed yesterday that a fifth doctor in Sierra Leone had tested positive.
The other four all died from the virus that has killed nearly 5,000 people across West Africa.
The sick physician has been identified as Dr Godfrey George, medical superintendent of Kambia Government Hospital in northern Sierra Leone. He was driven to the capital, Freetown, after reporting that he wasn’t feeling well.
Doctors and nurses have been the most vulnerable to contracting ebola, as the virus is spread through bodily fluids. Some 523 health workers have contracted the deadly virus, and about half of them have died.
Meanwhile the French government said it has flown in a Unicef employee infected with ebola in Sierra Leone for treatment.
The health ministry said the patient was evacuated in a special flight and is undergoing treatment in “high-security isolation” in Begin Army Training Hospital in Saint-Mande, near Paris. The patient’s name was not released.
Unicef spokeswoman Marixie Mercado confirmed that a member of its team in Sierra Leone was being treated in France, and “our hope is that our colleague will make a full recovery”.
In September, France took in a Doctors Without Borders medic who had ebola. She later recovered.
Children ‘orphaned, stigmatised’ by ebola
By Alex Diaz
Children are being orphaned, stigmatised and discriminated against because of the deadly ebola virus, experts have said.
At least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to the disease, according to Unicef.
Many have nowhere to go as extended families are refusing to care for them, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said.
Member agencies of the DEC are supporting children who have been affected by the disease at provisional care centres.
Charity Save The Children is working in the remote Kailahun district in Sierra Leone, one of the worst affected areas in the country.
One of the young boys they are supporting lost his father and six members of his family to ebola.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of charity Save the Children, said: “One of the main tragedies of ebola is that many children, who have already witnessed one or both parents dying in terrible circumstances, are now being abandoned because people are so terrified of contracting the disease.
“The traditional safety net of community support is under threat.” The Plan UK charity is also offering psychological and social support to children affected by the disease, including a young girl who watched her mother’s body taken away in plastic sheets.
Anita Queirazza, child protection specialist for Plan, said: “Witnessing the sudden death of their family members and medical personnel in masks and protective gear spraying unknown liquids is severely traumatising children. Many of them do not receive any form of psychological support. They are left alone at a time when they most need to be comforted.”
Charities affiliated with DEC are also working to educate people about ebola and challenge misunderstandings about the disease.
Jane Moyo of ActionAid said: “Genuine, honest dialogue with people in affected communities is crucial if stigma and prejudice are to be overcome.
“That includes community mobilisation and local leadership so that ebola myths can be challenged.”
Meanwhile, Britain is setting up three new labs in Sierra Leone to help check the spread of the virus.
The British government has pledged new funds of £20m (€25m) to build, run and staff the labs, which will be used to test blood samples and swabs for the virus. In addition to speeding up the testing process, they will also be used to give the all clear for patients who survive the disease.
The total amount of Irish aid pledged so far to help combat the spread of ebola now stands at over €4m.
It follows a commitment in the last few days of a further €1m to the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response.
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