Via Vox.com, which has been doing good Ebola coverage: "A violent virus": views from Ebola's ground zero. Excerpt:
The shortage of resources has made the work very difficult, says Monia Sayah, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders.
Sayah, who normally resides in Brooklyn, New York, has just finished two stints on the front line in Guinea, the West African nation where the disease first reemerged in March.
When she arrived, she said her biggest challenge was not trying to get people to believe the disease is real: it was figuring out how to care for the reality of so many sick patients.
"The workload was very high," she says of dealing with up to a dozen Ebola patients in quarantine. So was the mortality rate: at the beginning, about eight in ten patients were dying, close to the numbers in previous outbreaks of the Zaire Ebola virus, which killed 79 percent of those infected. (The death rate in the current outbreak has dropped to around 60 percent.)
"It's very stressful because you're constantly on alert: a patient here, a patient there. The physical stress of working is very hard because you lose a lot of fluid (wearing protective clothing), and get very tired in the heat as well." All the while, trying to make sure she didn't expose herself to the virus or accidentally cross-contaminate any person or thing.
When she'd arrive at the treatment facility in the morning, she'd put on a gown and then a waterproof and airtight suit, headgear, goggles, two pairs of gloves, and rubber boots. "Every inch of the body is covered," she says. When she left 12 hours later, everything except for her rubber boots—which get decontaminated with chlorine solution—was burned.
Since there is no treatment or cure for Ebola, caring for patients meant hydrating them, feeding and washing them, helping them walk, and giving them antibiotics to ward off any bacterial infection so that their immune systems can fight the virus.
It also meant touching and comforting them. "They're alone. They are isolated. Normally in this part of Africa people are never alone when they're sick." Most commonly, family members care for their loved ones at home—not strangers in a containment facility.
"We take them away from their families," says Sayah. "We know we're bringing them to a treatment facility, the place they should be to receive the best care, to isolate the virus. But the virus is inside a person."
The other tricky thing about Ebola is how quickly it can overtake its host. "We have patients asking for lunch, and we would go to see them a few hours later, and suddenly they would just die. It's a violent virus. You never know what's going to happen."