Via Medscape.com: First-Hand Experience From Guinea Offers New Ebola Insight.
Thomas Fletcher, MD, inspired a lecture hall packed with infectious disease experts by focusing on the simple things during a late-breaking session here at the 24th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Fletcher, who is from the Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at the World Health Organization, was doing Ebola virus infection case-management work in Conakry, Guinea, and had just cleared his mandatory 21 days of quarantine.
Although a therapy and vaccine for the highly contagious and fatal Ebola infection is desperately needed, it is the everyday things, such as gloves, gowns, and patient charts, that will ultimately help in the fight against this virus.
Personalizing protective equipment can be psychologically comforting to patients who are confused and afraid. Photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas Fletcher.
The lack of personal protective equipment "really holds back the ability to deliver care," he explained. He showed photographs of piles of contaminated waste in a Conakry hospital, and described medical teams sharing a few sets of personal protective equipment between them. In fact, a nurse he was working with in Conakry recently contracted the virus and died.
There is also a pressing need for clinicians on the frontline of the outbreak to communicate the clinical information being gathered to the international medical community.
"It is vitally important to get some clinical data from these outbreaks," he told Medscape Medical News. "Observational data are useful because we don't understand the pathogenesis of the disease in humans yet. If we're going to try to match the pathogenesis in clinical cases to the pathogenesis in nonhuman primates — which is relatively well understood — then we need to start reporting," he said.
There is cautious optimism that the number of cases in the current outbreak is decreasing. However, "we never call an end to the epidemic until we've had 2 full 21-day cycles without any new cases, and we haven't even done 1 cycle without a few new cases," Dr. Fletcher explained.
As of May 9, there were 236 confirmed cases and 158 fatalities in Guinea. Of the 24 healthcare workers infected, 17 had died.