Queenstown man’s warning on Ebola ‘turning point’

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An aid worker just returned from Sierra Leone is warning against complacency in the fight against Ebola.

On Thursday, World Health Organisation officials said there had been a “turning point” in the crisis, with the number of cases falling in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the BBC reported.

Queenstown’s Adam Childs arrived back in New Zealand recently after spending five weeks in Sierra Leone with Medicins Sans Frontieres.

The Englishman, a risk-analysis specialist, said while fewer Ebola cases were being reported, Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown, was still “more or less out of control”.

“This to me is way too early and has the danger of triggering complacency,” he said.

“When I was there we were seeing well over 100 new cases a day in Freetown, the capital, alone.”

Childs – who is called daily by New Zealand health authorities in case he starts showing Ebola symptoms – said several measles cases were discovered recently in Sierra Leone and the cholera season will arrive in a few months.

“I’m optimistic that we [international and national authorities] will get it under control but none of these actors should be patting themselves on the back.”

World Health Organisation (WHO) figures to January 18 show there have been 8641 Ebola deaths – 3605 in Liberia, 3145 in Sierra Leone and 1876 in Guinea – in what is the worst outbreak of the virus in human history.

Sierra Leone has had almost half the known cases, at 10,340 of a total of 21,724. There are only six known cases beyond Africa – four have been in the United States, including one death, one confirmed case was in the United Kingdom, that of nurse Pauline Cafferkey, and one case was in Spain.

While Childs was in Sierra Leone MSF moved to what he called “proactive transmission control” – with a focus on contact-tracing (finding everyone who was in contact with a sick patient in the past three weeks), safe burials and health promotion.

Childs said the Kailahun district, near the border of Guinea and Liberia, is close to being declared Ebola-free but the district to the north, Kono, had a huge outbreak last month, including bodies stacked up in a cordoned area of the local hospital.

Otago Daily Times