The Daily Vox is running a series of blogs written by DR STEFAN KRUGER, who is in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to help combat the spread of Ebola in the region.
Entry 1: My best ally
In the days leading up to the start of my first Ebola mission, I frantically wrack my brain for any and all knowledge I have on the lethal illness. There are snippets of a medical school lecture entitled “Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers”. It is filed somewhere next to Haemochromatosis and Klippel-Feil syndrome, in a section of the brain labelled “things you are unlikely to need again after the exams”.
I remember beautifully detailed pictures taken under electron-microscopes, I remember the class Filoviridae, and the name Peter Pyott seems to ring a bell. My go-to electronic medical reference has scanty information on clinical management, but copious notes on the identification of Bioterrorism. It also states that “even a single case of Ebola or Marburg virus outside of Africa is a public health emergency”. As a South African, I find this rather offensive.
A sense of unease develops as messages pour in from well-meaning friends, saying “Be careful,” and “Don’t get sick.” My briefings at MSF headquarters are reassuring – with a disease that occurs as seldom as Ebola there aren’t many experts in the world. I find comfort in the fact that a good handful of them have the letters MSF written on their business cards.
Before my departure, one of them sits me down in her office and rolls out a map on the table. From memory she recounts all the significant happenings and dates around the current outbreak. I remark on how widely dispersed the confirmed cases have been. “Exactly,” she says. “And that’s the biggest problem.” Finally, I am handed a small red book that contains MSF’s most up to date guidelines on running a field hospital during a Haemorrhagic fever outbreak. I instantly recognise it as my dearest ally in the battle I am about to enter.
Doctors without Borders (MSF) is currently working in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to combat the spread of Ebola across the region. To support this work, go to http://msf.org.za/donate or SMS “JOIN” to 42110 to donate R30. To receive direct updates about Ebola from Doctors without Borders (MSF) SA, e-mail your name to email@example.com with the subject line “Ebola”.
– Featured image via Sylvain Cherkaoui/Cosmos/MSF