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Ebola outbreak: British Red Cross sends health worker

4 April 2014

The British Red Cross has deployed a health delegate to Liberia in response to the increasing cases of Ebola in the region.

The current outbreak started in neighbouring Guinea and has so far resulted in 83 deaths and 127 suspected infections (as of April 02), according to the World Health Organisation. 

There have been two confirmed cases in Liberia and several suspected infections in Sierra Leone. There is no cure or vaccine for the virus, but its spread can be prevented. 

Red Cross response

The Red Cross, working with health authorities and other partner agencies, is stepping up its work in the region to support affected communities.   

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has deployed a field assessment co-ordination team (FACT) to Guinea to help manage the operations in-country, supplemented by the British Red Cross health delegate in Liberia. 

IFRC activities include: 
• Identify and track those who have come into contact with suspected cases
• Raise awareness among communities on how to prevent the spread of Ebola
• Provide psychosocial support to families affected by the outbreak
• Train Red Cross volunteers in how to safely manage dead bodies 
• Train volunteers in disinfection, household decontamination and sterilisation of waste. 

“This is the first outbreak ever of Ebola in Guinea,” said Dr Facely Diawara, head of the health department at the Red Cross Society of Guinea. 

“As soon as the outbreak was announced, Red Cross volunteers were immediately deployed to the affected areas to inform people how to prevent or limit the spread of the disease.” 

Liberia and Sierra Leone

In Liberia, two cases have been confirmed; there are 14 unconfirmed cases and six related deaths. 

The Red Cross is training and mobilizing its volunteers in Lofa and other most at-risk counties. Those being deployed are using personal protection kits to ensure they are protected against infection. 

The British Red Cross health delegate will support the Liberia Red Cross in its activities. 

In Sierra Leone, the Red Cross is using mobile cinemas and mobile text messaging to raise awareness about Ebola prevention in the four districts sharing borders with Guinea. 

Health workers in Sierra Leone are currently investigating 15 cases of people who have been in contact with those suspected to have the virus.

Highly infectious

The Ebola strain has been identified as Zaire, an extremely virulent strain of the virus with a fatality rate of up to 65 per cent reported in the current outbreak. 

Pete Garratt, British Red Cross disaster response manager, said: “Ebola is a highly infectious virus but its spread can be controlled. 
“The Red Cross has acted quickly to prepare communities and it’s vital people know how to prevent the spread of the virus. 

“The British Red Cross health delegate will be an essential part of the response team and will lend their expertise to the efforts.”


South Sudan news

After fighting broke out in South Sudan’s capital Juba over the weekend, Red Cross staff are beginning to assess the situation there.

A hospital came under attack in South Sudan leading to more than a dozen deaths.

Hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan face starvation unless urgent action is taken.