British Columbia

B.C. nurse hopeful Ebola outbreak in Congo can be contained soon

A nurse practitioner from B.C.'s Interior is lending her expertise to help contain the Ebola outbreak in the Congo.

Patrice Gordon is working to prevent virus from crossing borders in neighbouring countries

Patrice Gordon, a B.C. nurse practitioner and Red Cross delegate, worked at the Red Cross Ebola treatment centre in Kenema, Sierra Leone in 2014. She is seen here caring for a one-month-old baby with Ebola. (Handout/Canadian Red Cross)

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has already claimed hundreds of lives, and Red Cross volunteers from all over the world are flocking to central Africa to help fight the epidemic — including a nurse practitioner from B.C.'s Interior.

The outbreak was officially declared in August and is complicated by ongoing conflicts in the region.

Despite the harsh conditions, Patrice Gordon knew she needed to be in the DRC when she learned of the latest epidemic. Gordon was on the ground in Africa during the outbreak in 2014.

"It was it was I think probably the most powerful, intense experience of my life to see that volume of tragedy passing before you every day and trying to do what you can," Gordon told CBC's The Early Edition guest host Laura Lynch.

This time around, Gordon returned to Africa as a health adviser. Instead of working in Ebola response centres, she's creating prevention and preparedness strategies in countries like South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, which are all high risk for contracting Ebola.

She's also training locals in using equipment, setting up treatment centres, how to do contact tracing — figuring out everyone who has come into contact with and infected person — and getting frontline workers vaccinated.

Health adviser Patrice Gordon with volunteers inside a health centre that has been converted into an Ebola Treatment Centre in preparation for Ebola to cross the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. (Submitted)

"It's a unique opportunity in terms of an outbreak or epidemic to be ahead of the game, to be proactive," she said.

Virus likely to spread to other countries

The likelihood of Ebola crossing country borders is looking quite high, Gordon said, because of the proximity of the borders and the high traffic between them.

"Every case has usually roughly 150 contacts," she said. "Those people can go into an area where it really isn't safe for anyone to go to track them down. So we lose those people, which means that we lose that ability to contain the virus."

B.C. nurse practitioner Patrice Gordon poses with volunteers after a meeting about Ebola in Rwanda. (Submitted)

She went on: "With this decades-long history of violence and insecurity ... there's a subsequent population movement, people fleeing the violence as little bits of it erupt here and there and potentially taking their Ebola virus with them into a new community."

Though Gordon believes it's inevitable the virus will cross borders, she remains positive, because of all the hard work she has witnessed during her time overseas.

"I do feel hopeful that we're going to to be able to control it in the next couple of months," she said.

With files from The Early Edition

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