As a deadly outbreak of Ebola rages across parts of West Africa, one family in Halifax fears for loved ones living in Sierra Leone.

The West African outbreak involves four countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Since the outbreak first came to the outside world's attention in early March there have been more than 1,800 cases, and more than 1,000 deaths. Many of the dead are health workers, who are often working with inadequate supplies and protection.

Josephine Tommy, who lives in Halifax, worries about her mother living in her hometown of Kenema.

Tommy was supposed to be visiting her mother in Sierra Leone right now, but Kenema is currently under quarantine.


Some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion is revealed in this undated handout colourized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) obtained by Reuters Aug. 1. (Frederick Murphy/CDC/Reuters)

“The Ebola outbreak has plagued our country, and Kenema happens to be one of the epicentres,” she said.

Tommy said she has been glued to news about the virus. She decided the best way to help is to keep her family living in West Africa informed about what’s happening and what they can do to keep themselves safe.

“I advised my mom to get a supply of her medication because she's diabetic. Make sure you have your medication, you have food in the house and try to stay home. Stay home, stay home, stay home, and wash your hands,” Tommy told her mother.

Dr. John LeBlanc, who has spent years encouraging peer-to-peer health education in places like Gambia, said those kinds of messages help.

“I think it's about trust. In many situations, we don't trust officials. Especially in places where, perhaps, the messages were incorrect before or people know there may be some degree of inaccuracy,” he said.

Tommy said her mother can get information about Ebola from her local radio station, but sometimes it's just better to hear it from family.

Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases known to humanity. It has no proven cure and there is no vaccine to prevent infection. The most effective treatment involves alleviating symptoms that include fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

With files from The Canadian Press