Providing health care to Ebola patients in Conakry

April 2014

“Today’s discharge of patients shows that Ebola is not always fatal. Good, early supportive care such as hydration, nutrition and appropriate medication can have a positive impact,” says Dr Tom Fletcher, Infectious Disease Physician at WHO, who provides clinical care to Ebola patients in the Guinean capital Conakry.

Tom Fletcher, WHO, prepearing to enter isolation ward at Donka hospital in Conakry, Guinea
WHO/T. Jasarevic

Two patients were released on the morning of 3 April from the Ebola isolation ward at Donka national teaching hospital, having spent 7 days in the isolation ward after testing positive for Ebola virus.

Having been free of symptoms for 3 days and testing negative, they were allowed to re-join their family and friends. There are still 6 patients who remain in isolation.

Ebola treatment in the isolation ward

The Guinean Ministry of Health is supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and WHO at the Donka hospital, which will soon become the only isolation centre in the capital.

Three patients currently being treated in the isolation ward at the Hospital of Chinese-Guinean Friendship will be transferred to Donka. MSF has already started putting up tents and bringing equipment to increase capacity at the isolation facility.

“After being triaged at the emergency room, people presenting Ebola-like symptoms are directed to the Department of Infectious Disease. After a more detailed exam, patients meeting the case definition are referred to this isolation ward,” explains Dr Fletcher.

While they wait for the results, suspected cases are kept apart from positive cases. Laboratory tests are carried out at Donka hospital, by a team deployed from the Pasteur Institute of Dakar. It takes about 24 hours to get the results.

Tom Fletcher, WHO, and MSF doctor discuss clinical management of ebola patients, Guinea.
WHO/T. Jasarevic

“The human body will fight Ebola virus, and the clinical care we provide to patients helps to give more time to the body to win that fight,” says Dr Tim Jagatic, MSF clinician deployed at Donka isolation ward.

In total 16 Ebola cases have been reported in Conakry including 5 deaths. As of 4 April, the total number of suspected cases countrywide is 137, including 86 deaths.

Preventing health worker infections

Preventing new infections among health workers – is key.

“Health workers are often among the victims in the early stage of the outbreak, as they are in direct contact with infected persons. Helping them to protect themselves and also ensuring appropriate treatment for patients are key to providing equity of access to life-saving interventions” says Dr Fletcher.

Beside clinical management, WHO, the Ministry of Health and their partners continue to implement measures to respond to the outbreak, including contact tracing, disease surveillance, laboratory work, logistics, as well as information-sharing and communication are all essential elements of the response.