Via The Star, Jennifer Yang writes: Canada to pull scientists fighting Ebola from Sierra Leone. Excerpt:
The Canadian government is evacuating three scientists from Sierra Leone, where their role diagnosing blood samples was crucial to the operation of one of West Africa’s biggest Ebola treatment centres.
The Canadians were working at a busy treatment centre operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Kailahun, the eastern district at the heart of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The “mobile” laboratory was deployed to West Africa in the spring at the request of the World Health Organization and three teams have now travelled to Sierra Leone from Winnipeg.
The sudden departure of the Canadian trio is part of a larger evacuation ordered by the World Health Organization, which recently removed its entire team from Kailahun. The decision came after a Senegalese epidemiologist working for the UN health agency tested positive for Ebola over the weekend, marking the first time a WHO-deployed expert has been infected with the deadly virus.
“This was the responsible thing to do. The field team has been through a traumatic time with this incident,” said Dr. Daniel Kertesz, the WHO’s representative in Sierra Leone, in a written statement Tuesday. “They are exhausted from many weeks of heroic work, helping patients infected with Ebola. When you add a stressor like this, the risk of accidents increases.”
The Senegalese epidemiologist appears to be doing relatively well, however, and was able to walk into the airplane that has since flown him to Germany for treatment, according to WHO spokesperson Christy Feig.
The three Canadian scientists and WHO epidemiologist were all living at the same hotel in Kailahun, where staff from MSF is also staying. According to Health Canada spokesperson Sean Upton, three people at the hotel have now been confirmed positive for the virus but Feig, who is now in Guinea, said she has only so far heard of the one.
In a written statement, Upton said the risk is “very low” that any of the Canadian scientists are infected, however: none had any direct contact with any of the sick individuals and they are not showing any signs or symptoms. All three will remain in voluntary isolation, however, and be closely monitored as they make their way home and after they return to Canada.
MSF’s busy treatment centre in Kailahun – which expanded from 60 to 80 beds last month –relied heavily on the work of the Canadian scientists, who both diagnosed suspected cases and confirmed when patients had cleared the virus and could finally go home.