Via The Star, Jennifer Yang reports from Kailahun, Sierra Leone: Canadians making quiet contribution in Ebola's hot zone. Read the whole article—it's excellent. Excerpt:
Canadian scientist Heidi Wood found herself inside a tent in a remote region of Sierra Leone last week, staring at a line on her computer screen and willing it to stay straight.
The 39-year-old Winnipegger and her colleague, Shane Jones, were watching the real-time results from a recent batch of blood tests. The colourful lines on the screen correspond to the levels of virus detected in the blood, and if they stay straight and flat, then the news is good. But if the lines begin to rise and curve, the news is grim — the patient has Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man.
On this particular day, their eyes were fixed upon one line in particular — that pertaining to a 22-month-old girl named Isata, who was infected in July with the virus that killed her parents. But after weeks of watching line after line curve up, Wood was happy with the way this one turned out.
“Flat. She gets to go home,” Wood says. “I think we did a little ‘Yayyyy,’” she adds, doing a little celebratory dance from her chair.
At her usual workplace in Winnipeg — the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Lab, or NML — Wood rarely knows the names or stories behind the tubes of blood that are sent to her lab, nor does she get emotionally invested in the results.
But the lab where she has been based for the past month is no ordinary lab. It is housed in two open-air tents — occasionally visited by exotic moths the size of your fist — and located in a jungle clearing in Kailahun, a district in Sierra Leone where Médecins Sans Frontières has been running a treatment centre for Ebola patients.
From her wooden stool, Wood can see many of the people behind her blood samples: for example, 53-year-old Thomas, shuffling around in his slippers and listening to a radio, his only connection to the world beyond his isolation tent; or 25-year-old Ansu, a commercial motorcyclist whose mother, father, brothers and sisters all died after Ebola swept through their household.
Nothing has been ordinary when it comes to this outbreak, the largest in history spanning four countries and causing at least 2,127 reported cases since March — figures that probably “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak,” the World Health Organization said Thursday. More than 1,145 people have now died and MSF said Friday that the international response remains “dangerously inadequate,” with the outbreak continuing to spiral out of control in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.