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Stepping up to stop Ebola in its tracks

FRONT LINE: Former Ballina resident and epidemiologist Barbara Telfer is working to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders. INSET: A medical worker spraying people being discharged from the Ebola treatment centre in Liberia.
FRONT LINE: Former Ballina resident and epidemiologist Barbara Telfer is working to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders. INSET: A medical worker spraying people being discharged from the Ebola treatment centre in Liberia. Ap Inset Image

EPIDEMIOLOGIST Barbara Telfer is at the forefront of the Ebola crisis.

The former Ballina resident is working in the rural Foya district in northern Liberia as part of the Doctors Without Borders team working tirelessly to manage the deadly outbreak.

It's Ms Telfer's fourth mission, having spent almost two years working in Kenya and two missions to Mozambique - all in response to HIV and emergencies.

Her days begin with a 7.30am meeting with the health promotion and outreach team to prioritise the day's activities based on new admissions and data received overnight.

If a patient is admitted overnight, the health promotion and outreach team can go to their village and talk to the community leaders and arrange for a community meeting to see how they're managing, sensitise them to prevention and help identify people at risk for monitoring.

Ms Telfer said patients could come in by themselves, phone the hotline, or be sent by authorities.

"If they're a suspected case, they're admitted to the respective area where they're very rapidly tested for Ebola and managed clinically," she said.

"Everyone has one test. If the first test is positive, they move immediately to the confirmed area of the case management centre.

"If their first test is negative, usually people have a second test because it can take three days from onset for an Ebola test to turn positive."

Ms Telfer said data was collected for every person admitted or who died as a result of the disease.

She said the data and patient notes helped identify the chain of transmission, often up to 20 people.

"That sometimes leads us to the most recent case to let us know where to direct some prevention activities and promotion."

Topics:  ebola health



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