Eilish Cleary heads to Sierra Leone to help fight Ebola
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health said she will help contain the disease
New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health is moving to Sierra Leone from Nigeria as she continues to help the World Health Organization fight the spread of Ebola in western Africa.
Nigeria has been declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, but Dr. Eilish Cleary said the country won't be safe from the virus until other countries get the spread of it under control.
Cleary, who has been working in western Africa since mid- September, said Nigeria has been successful because it diagnosed the initial case of Ebola quickly and mounted a thorough response.
Cleary said her next stop is Sierra Leone, a country that she has worked in before as a public health official.
“I will still be focusing on the public health containment of the disease. I have in the past worked in clinical care when I worked in Sierra Leone before,” she said.
“But at this time I think the need is greatest in the containment of the spread and that's what I'll be working on. I don't yet know exactly what part of the country I will be in or what my specific duties will be but certainly it will be in that aspect of the disease control.”
The World Health Organization said on Monday that Nigeria passed through "the requisite 42 days," twice the disease's maximum incubation period, with active surveillance for new cases in place and none detected.
The country's first case of Ebola was confirmed on July 23 in the city of Lagos.
Nigeria reported a total of 19 cases, including seven deaths and 12 patients who survived, WHO said, adding that those figures give the country an "enviable case fatality rate of 40 per cent – much lower than the 70 per cent and higher seen elsewhere."
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has already claimed over 4,700 lives.
Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin.
There are lessons from Nigeria’s response that can help other countries, Cleary said.
She said health officials in that country diagnosed the initial case of Ebola quickly and mounted a thorough response.
Cleary also said Nigeria put a lot of effort into contact tracing, so they would follow up with anyone who may have come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
“To do that really, you have to identify all of the contacts, you have to follow them up systematically for 21 days, and if any of them become symptomatic then you have to put them in isolation until you confirm the disease or out-rule it,” she said.
“So it’s actually quite a big operation, there can be hundreds of contacts and so to do that well, it takes time, it takes diligence and patience.”
Cleary will be in Sierra Leone for a month and she expects to be back in New Brunswick in December.
CBC News is dedicating a special day of coverage to the Ebola crisis today. On radio, television and online, we'll explore the facts behind Ebola and answer questions. Be part of the conversation Tuesday by using #ebolafacts on social media or by joining our live chat on CBCNews.ca starting at 8 p.m. ET.