Thanks to Planetnurse for tweeting the link to this report in Medical News Today: Sierra Leone researchers call for health surveillance improvements to tackle Ebola crisis. Excerpt:
The Lancet publish a statement from researchers working in Sierra Leone calling for improvements to health care resources, disease surveillance and diagnostic technologies to tackle the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa."
The authors say that the true extent of the outbreak is very difficult to determine as most people with fever-causing illnesses in Sierra Leone are self-diagnosed and treated at home using over-the-counter medications.
Not only is there a lack of professional diagnoses of suspected Ebola cases, but the authors write that there is little incentive for patients to seek professional diagnosis. This is partly because a patient and their family may be stigmatized if diagnosed with Ebola. Also, laboratory testing is expensive and unlikely to change the course of treatment.
"Even if a patient wanted to be tested for Ebola," write the researchers, "few (if any) laboratories in the region have the capacity to safely test a biosafety level 4 pathogen."
Although the authors believe that the disease surveillance systems in the region are inadequate, they suggest that mobile phones - "ubiquitous in West Africa" - could be deployed to routinely collect surveillance data.