Screenings aim to contain ebola threat
REVIEWING WA nurses and doctors’ ebola screening after volunteering in East Africa was part of a regular national telephone conference last Friday.
Infected Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey flew home with the disease from Sierra Leone two weeks ago.
“Reviews are routinely scheduled, but Cafferkey was on the agenda in case,” WA Health Department ebola specialist Paul Essler said.
The department uses twicedaily SMS calls over 21 days to check the temperatures of about 22 West Australians, mostly mining workers and three WA health professionals, who have returned from ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea where there have been at least 8600 ebola deaths.
Mr Essler said while no screening was guaranteed, “thousands” had flown from West Africa during the outbreak without causing secondary infections.
Mineworkers are low risk because they did not care for ebola sufferers and miners’ employers had them taking their temperatures up to six times daily after returning.
“I think it is important for people to understand that you are not equally infectious during the course of the illness, and you are very contagious just before you die when the symptoms are so apparent,” Mr Essler said.
Britain, which is reviewing its screening after the Cafferkey case, will treat Australian volunteers with ebola.
Foreign Minister and Curtin MHR Julie Bishop said securing Australians treatment had always been Canberra’s greatest concern, before $23 million for the Aspen Medical-run ebola clinic in Sierra Leone was announced in November.
“And that is why the Australian Government was very careful to ensure we had guarantees in place so that our health professionals were able to work there, but know that treatment options were in place, should that be needed,” Ms Bishop said.
Sierra Leone girl Aminata Bangura (11) was the first Australiantreated ebola patient to be released from the clinic, after losing eight family members to the disease, while Ms Cafferkey was critical, but stable, with ebola in London’s Free Hospital last week.
Aminata Bangura leaves her handprint on a survivors’ wall at the Sierra Leone clinic.