Dr. William Clemmer, who is based in Beni, the epicenter of the current Ebola outbreak in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, shared this story from the field. It is a bright spot in the midst of dark and difficult times for the IMA World Health team that is working to combat what is now the largest, longest and deadliest of Congo’s 10 Ebola outbreaks.
A woman died seven weeks ago while giving birth by cesarean section in a hospital in the middle of the Ebola outbreak. Health workers suspected the mother had Ebola, and a test confirmed it. Her baby girl, who was healthy at birth, became critically ill at four-days old and tested positive for Ebola, too. The newborn was rushed to the nearest Ebola Treatment Facility where she was hospitalized for 45 days and received a full course of the still-experimental antiviral treatment.
On Wednesday, the baby girl was declared “cured” and discharged home to her family—healthy and symptom-free. This child is believed to be the youngest victim of Ebola to successfully undergo treatment and recover from the highly fatal disease.
With funding from the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, IMA World Health is providing lifesaving protection material, such as gloves, gowns, masks, chlorine and soap, to facilities in the region. IMA recently purchased more than 100 covered mattresses to be used in facilities, such as the hospital where the mother gave birth, to replace soiled uncovered foam mattresses.
IMA also supports key members of the surveillance teams that go out daily to monitor those who have had close contact with Ebola victims, so health workers can get them into treatment and isolation early, if they come down with symptoms. IMA supports community advocates who also go out daily to speak in churches, schools and marketplaces, as well as visit homes to ensure people know how the virus is transmitted, how to avoid it and the importance of isolation and early treatment of those who are asymptotic.
These are long days, Clemmer said. The numbers of victims keep climbing. The risks to all are ever present. It is not often we get good news like this, but it bonds us together, all from different countries and organizations: the Ministry of Health, WHO, UN agencies, NGOs, community volunteers.
He added: The announcement at our end-of-day meeting—of the survival of this now 7-week old girl and her release, cured, to her extended family—brought a round of applause, smiles and a few tears; uncharacteristic of our usual meetings. It was good medicine for the soul and a much-needed encouragement to our weary yet committed colleagues in this fight against Ebola in this obscure corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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