Ebola: lockdown at Malian hospital
Doctor and 30 others are being kept in quarantine
‘We’re not where we can be confident we’re turning a corner’
ADOCTOR at a clinic battling Mali’s second Ebola outbreak is suspected of having contracted the deadly virus, officials said yesterday, as about 30 people were locked in the quarantined building.
The people trapped in the Pasteur Clinic in the capital Bamako include 15 African UN soldiers being treated for injuries and TB, a security source said.
“A doctor who is a suspected case of Ebola is under observation because he has been in contact with the two dead people, and we are searching for others who were around the deceased but returned home,” an official at the clinic said.
The official said the doctor was under observation at a separate location near the capital.
The government called for calm as it confirmed that a Guinean patient thought to have brought Ebola into Mali and a 25-year-old Malian nurse who treated him – confirmed as having contracted the virus – had died at the clinic, sparking a huge operation to stem the contagion.
Locals said many patients fled when the nurse’s death was announced on Tuesday and had escaped the quarantine measures.
“There are about 30 of us quarantined in the clinic. There are doctors, patients, 15 soldiers from the UN mission in Bamako. We don’t understand this isolation measure… We have nothing to eat. It’s chaos, it’s a mess,” a doctor said.
Goita Sekou, 66, arrived in Bamako from Guinea 17 days ago by bus, and nurse Saliou Diarra treated her for kidney failure at the private clinic, a medical source said. “At (Sekou’s) death, it was discovered that two members of his family had died of Ebola. But he hid it,” said the source, although it has not been confirmed that Sekou had Ebola.
The Health Ministry said all measures were being taken to identify people who had contact with the deceased.
“The premises of the private clinic and the patient’s home have been completely disinfected and placed under observation,” is said.
Meanwhile it was reported from Washington that health workers on the frontline of the Ebola crisis say the need for urgent help isn’t letting up, as Congress begins considering President Barack Obama’s $6.2 billion (R70bn) emergency aid request to fight the disease.
Despite reports that the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, cases are rising in other areas. Aid organisations say thousands of healthcare workers are needed to treat Ebola patients over the next few months.
“We’re not yet at a point where we can have confidence that we’re turning the corner, even in Liberia,” said Andy Gleadle of the International Medical Corps, which is running a treatment centre in Liberia and plans to open another in that country and two more in Sierra Leone.
Even with increasing global attention, it takes time to train new health workers, build field hospitals, and buy protective equipment for doctors and nurses.
Even if Obama were to give millions of dollars tomorrow, “it takes weeks to absorb that funding and implement it on the ground”, said Gleadle, who is responsible for the charity’s response in Sierra Leone.
The hearing comes even as Ebola is fading from US headlines.
The last Ebola patient being treated in the US – a doctor who was diagnosed after returning from a volunteer stint fighting the virus in Guinea – was released from a New York City hospital on Tuesday. His fiancée remains in quarantine at their flat. New York officials continue to monitor health workers who cared for him as well as other recent travellers from West Africa. That “doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods”, an official cautioned. Until the epidemic is ended in West Africa, “there is still the real possibility that other people with Ebola will be diagnosed in the US”.
There is bipartisan concern about Ebola and its threat to the US, and support for military and public health efforts at fighting the epidemic in West Africa.
ALERT: A police officer stands guard outside the quarantined Pasteur Clinic in Bamako yesterday. The Malian government confirmed the country’s second case of Ebola on Tuesday.