Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ebola burial teams saved thousands of lives

A new study, reviewing the actions taken in response to the 2014-2015 West African Ebola crisis, has found the burial practices conducted by medical staff were highly effective in reducing the infection spread.
he Ebola crisis, which has ravaged parts of West Africa was propelled by a host of factors. Chief among these was a very poor (and in some areas non-existent) public health infrastructure, plus little institutional support being in place. The response from global health agencies, such as the World Health Organization, were also criticized as being too slow. Across West Africa an estimated 28,000 people were infected with the virus and some 11,300 died.
READ MOREJust why has Ebola been so terrible in West Africa?
Despite the slowness of the response, the actions of medical and healthcare volunteer staff was instrumental in addressing the crisis and slowing down the spread of infection. Called out in a new study, from the Epicentre, Geneva, Switzerland, are the actions of Red Cross volunteers.

Fact check: What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease refers the human disease which is caused by any of four of five known Ebola viruses. The name derives from Ebola River in Republic of the Congo, near to where the first case of the virus was detected in 1976. Ebola is an unpleasant disease; after an incubation time that can stretch to twenty-one days, one of the common signs of the disease is bleeding from mucous membranes and puncture sites. If the infected person does not recover, death due to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome occurs and here the disease can be up to 90 percent fatal, depending on the viral type.
With the Red Cross, a key part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. This is because the bodies of victims were highly infective. In the early days of the crisis one way by which many people became infected was through the cultural practice of community funerals. Health experts recognized early on that this had to stop. By switching to rapid burials, with no community involvement, the study suggests the practice of safe and dignified burials prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.
The study is published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and it is called "Estimating the number of secondary Ebola cases resulting from an unsafe burial and risk factors for transmission during the West Africa Ebola epidemic."

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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