Ten medical workers with a Boston charity who went to the aid of a colleague diagnosed with Ebola, are being evacuated to the US where they will be placed in isolation units.
The organisation Partners in Health said that last week that one of its members working to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone had been tested positive for the disease. That person had already been flown to the US and was receiving special treatment at the National Institutes of Health Special Clinical Studies Unit in Bethesda, Maryland, it said.
The organisation said the medical workers who helped the infected person were now also being evacuated. They will form the largest group to be evacuated to the United States over possible Ebola exposure.
Reminders of Ebola’s terrifying spread through the region are everywhere. In Port Loko district in Sierra Leone, a sign advises passers-by about a quarantined home “Out of an abundance of caution, and in collaboration with the US Centres For Disease Control and Prevention, these clinicians are being transported to the United States via non-commercial aircraft,” the group said in a statement.
“They will remain in isolation near designated US Ebola treatment facilities to ensure access to rapid testing and treatment in the unlikely instance that any become symptomatic.”
Partners in Health did not specify a timeline for the new evacuations and the US Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, failed to respond to inquiries, Reuters reported.
On Saturday, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said several Americans who may have been exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone would be monitored. The CDC did not state how many Americans are coming back, but University of Nebraska Medical Centre officials said they will be monitoring four individuals.
Health workers in Sierra Leone take steps to avoid becoming infected but they are not always successful “Because we have individuals to monitor simultaneously, the safest and most efficient way to do that is in a group setting,” said Phil Smith, director of the centre's containment unit.
Partners in Health began treating Ebola patients in Liberia and Sierra Leone last November, and the clinician who tested positive for Ebola on March 11 is the first staff member to fall ill “as a result of a confirmed occupational exposure”, the group said. It has more than 2,000 employees working in West Africa, including foreigners and local and 600 Ebola survivors.
The World Health Organisation estimated last week that the ongoing Ebola outbreak – the largest ever seen - has killed more than 10,000 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The rate of deaths has slowed dramatically in recent months but the virus remains entrenched in parts of Guinea and Sierra Leone.