Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who form the first medical response team at the epicenters of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa are being infected and dieing from the disease.
The loss of these essential healthcare workers to the Ebola outbreak is putting added pressure on the remaining staff, who are now compelled to work longer hours to supplement the decreasing hospital staff.
This scenario, which is further compounded by daily records of death is putting both a physical and mental strain on the already overburdened few doctors and nurses in West Africa’s understaffed hospitals and clinics.
In Sierra Leone, Dr Umar Kahn, the country’s leading virologist against the epidemic died within a week of contracting the Ebola virus. In Nigeria, a nurse who cared for the Liberian-American Ebola patient in a private hospital also sadly passed away. There are five other medical staff who came into contact with Nigeria’s first fatal Ebola case who are also infected and are currently battling for their lives.
These medical professionals who are treating the scores of infected patients are contracting the virus through inadvertent contact with the blood and tissues of the patients under their care.
Though the holders of the Hippocratic oath have information about protecting themselves from the contracting the disease, in dire emergency cases the process of deciphering which patient has the disease or not is compromised while trying to saving every precious life.
In the case of Dr Umar Khan, he used a protective suit for several months as a line of defense against the virus before eventually contracting and succumbing to the disease.
Some West African health workers who are carrying out their ethical obligation to save lives are expressing their genuine concerns and fears about contracting the virus and possibly infecting their families.
There was a report in Ghana that healthcare workers at local clinic run out and created mass hysteria, when a patient with some symptoms mimicking the Ebola disease was brought in. The patient was later diagnosed as not being infected with Ebola, when calm heads prevailed.
Despite the apprehension over contracting the disease, all healthcare are still at their posts doing all they can to save the lives of both infected Ebola patients and other patients recovering from other maladies.