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PS21 Global Fellow battles Ebola in Sierra Leone

A Freetown street
A Freetown street

Felicity Fitzgerald, a British paediatrician working with the charity Save the Children, has recently returned to Sierra Leone for the fight against the Ebola virus outbreak.

In this piece for Britain’s Daily Telegraph, she finds herself splitting her time between research and patient care.
 
I’m going to be splitting my time between paediatric clinical work and some desperately needed research. At the peak of the epidemic, all I could think about was changing sheets, cleaning floors, moving patients in and out of the isolation unit and trying to give pain relief and dioralytes to our patients. Data gathering came a long way down the priority list.
 

This is an upsetting reality of outbreak work. When facilities are filled to the brim with needy patients, making detailed notes about what is actually happening to those patients is a rare luxury.

However if we don’t gather data we will remain in the same evidence vacuum that confronted us with this epidemic…

Epidemiologists and clinicians alike are slightly slack-jawed at the drop-off.

The most logical explanation is that sufficient community mobilization (no touching, safe burials, take sick people to hospital and DON’T look after them at home) occurred at a point when we finally achieved sufficient bed and laboratory capacity. That meant we could rapidly move patients out of the community and into Ebola Treatment Centres.

But it didn’t really feel like that. It felt like one week we were full every day with queues of people needing to be admitted, and the next we had empty beds.

You can donate to support Save the Children’s work in Sierra Leone here.

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