Early action saves lives

Eighty per cent of members surveyed by National Nurses United, America’s largest union of registered nurses, said they had not been given adequate training to deal with Ebola.

The first transmission in the US, to critical care nurse Nina Pham, happened because of lapses in protocols at the private Texas Presbyterian Hospital (TPH) in Dallas. She has since recovered.

Thomas Duncan arrived in the US from Liberia on September 20. Three days later he went to TPH Dallas with fever and abdominal pain. He told a nurse he had travelled from Africa but was eventually sent home.

Eight days later he returned, this time with extreme vomiting and diarrhoea, and was placed in isolation. He died on October 8.

On November 11 it was announced that the last known person in the US with Ebola, Dr Craig Spencer, an American who worked with MSF in Guinea, and who had tested positive on October 23, had recovered after being treated at a specialist unit in New York.

But by November 14 a new case had been announced, Dr Martin Salia, an American resident, who became infected while working in his native country of Sierra Leone.

Dr Salia was flown home to a specialised hospital in Nebraska, one of four US hospitals with bio containment units that include advanced features designed to handle dangerous pathogens like the Ebola virus. Isolation units include special air filters, dunk tanks full of antiseptic, dedicated lab equipment and autoclaves to sterilise medical waste before it is transported from a unit.

Dr Salia was suffering from advanced symptoms of Ebola when he arrived at the Nebraska hospital, including kidney and respiratory failure. He died two days later.

Dr Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska medical centre, told the media: “We are reminded … that in the very advanced stages, even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach a critical threshold.”

As The Lamp went to press Dr Salia was the tenth person with Ebola to be treated in the US and the second to have died.