Thanks to Lucie Lecomte for the link to this news release from the University of Texas Medical Branch: UTMB scientist is headed into the Ebola hot zone. Excerpt:
At a time when most are fleeing the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, one of Galveston’s own is flying in.
Thomas Ksiazek, director of high containment laboratory operations for the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch, will leave for Sierra Leone on Aug. 11 to lead U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ebola outbreak control operations, assisting the government of Sierra Leone.
His role is part of a massive effort being supported by research and medical professionals from the CDC as well as from other institutions from around the world.
Ksiazek is director of the National Biodefense Training Center and a world-renowned virus expert with 40 years of experience on the front lines of some of the worst outbreaks the world has ever seen.
Before coming to the medical branch, he was chief of the Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC in Atlanta where he coordinated outbreak and control responses to especially dangerous pathogens such as Ebola, Marburg and SARS. In fact, he codiscovered the SARS virus.
Through the years, he has played a significant role in disease discovery and outbreak response efforts in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.
Sierra Leone is where the worst of the current Ebola outbreak is centered. Ksiazek will not be treating patients. As a veterinarian, epidemiologist and expert on exotic diseases in international and developing world settings, he will be looking to contain the current epidemic.
He recently answered questions specific to his impending deployment for The Galveston Daily News.
Q: What will you be doing in Sierra Leone?
A: I will be helping the CDC lead a team of epidemiologists that have been requested by the government of Sierra Leone to assist them in controlling the Ebola outbreak.
The nature of the work will be to find all the patients and make sure they are being cared for in some way that excludes contact with those who aren’t wearing protective gear of a type that won’t stop transmission.
The current problem appears to be that the network for finding and identifying all the patients has been pretty leaky. So the idea is to strengthen that network and the ability to find cases and make sure the contacts are under observation. So we will find patients and identify who they have had contact with and then maintain contact with those people.
Q: This is the biggest and deadliest outbreak of Ebola we’ve seen. Are you concerned for your safety?
A: I’ve been on many of these field trips; I’m not concerned for my personal safety. Essentially all the cases are the result of direct, unprotected contact with patients or lapses in the protocol that people are supposed to follow; so outside of that, walking around in a village or town where there’s Ebola is not a dangerous affair. Even my wife isn’t that worried.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding these viruses, and, in my opinion, it’s overblown based on the nature of what really goes on. Everyone is terrified of this virus. But if aerosol transmissions were its natural form of transmission, entire towns would be wiped out. That’s not the case. There a lot more people dying of malaria in Africa than from the pathogen causing this outbreak.