Ebola – a test too far for one little girl

In Guinea, the Ebola outbreak continues and resources are needed to end the epidemic. When testing and treatment options are too far away, people are less willing to cooperate. Mariam's* case illustrates this problem. As a WHO team discussed her symptoms, she listened and showed no signs of distress. When she was told she must go to Conakry – over 3 hours away – she began to sob and her family refused to send her.
Dr M’Bemba Camara has been working for the past 4 months in the Forecariah prefecture where communities have been hit hard by Ebola. More than 250 people have died from the disease in this prefecture alone. A member of WHO’s surveillance team in Guinea, Dr M’Bemba sets out each morning with a social mobilizer or communicator for Alassoya, a Forecariah sub-prefecture. Dr M’Bemba is now well accepted in this area.

A father initiates discussion with Ebola team

Each day, Ebola monitoring teams and community members bring him information about sick family members, friends or contacts. This morning, shortly after he arrives, a member of the Ebola monitoring team comes to tell him that there is a young girl down the road who has been sick for a few days. He heads straight there to visit the child, Mariam, and investigate these reports.

Mariam’s father is a respected elder in the community and when it comes to Ebola, he is more than ready to cooperate with the investigation teams. He explains that he took his daughter to the hospital several days ago when she was feeling unwell, but was told that everything was fine. However, as Mariam’s symptoms persisted for several days, he wanted to be safe, so he called the Ebola team.

Dr M’Bemba begins his evaluation by using a contactless thermometer to take Mariam’s temperature and goes through a list of questions to detect symptoms and signs. According to WHO processes, if 3 or more such symptoms and signs are present and the patient is a contact of someone confirmed to have Ebola virus disease, they are considered to be a suspected case of Ebola. Mariam has 7 of the signs and symptoms on the list.

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