Uganda: MSF sets up Ebola treatment centre

© Agus Morales/MSF

Kagadi, 3 August 2012 An emergency team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up a treatment centre for Ebola in Kagadi, western Uganda, where 24 suspected cases have already been admitted. So far the outbreak has claimed the lives of 17 people. MSF staff have also put in place control measures to prevent the epidemic from spreading further, and to protect the local community and health workers.

Within 72 hours of arriving in Kagadi, the emergency team had cleaned and disinfected the referral hospital for Kibaale district, the epicentre of the epidemic. The team also set up a 30-bed treatment centre within one of the wards.

Patients with Ebola symptoms keep on arriving, and 24 people suspected to be infected (including two cases confirmed by blood tests) have been admitted. Control measures are in place around the treatment centre to prevent further infection, and the team has erected tents where medical staff can don protective clothing so as to work without risk. The team is also training health workers in other protective measures to allow them to work as safely and comfortably as possible.

"Usually, building a treatment centre for Ebola takes five to seven days,” says Henry Gray, MSF’s water and sanitation coordinator for the emergency, attesting to the speed of the response. “We are continuing to reinforce and improve the treatment centre to take better care of patients and avoid contagion.”

The medical staff who are treating patients are most at risk of catching Ebola, as they are exposed to the bodily fluids through which the disease is transmitted. But with the new measures in place, including the use of protective suits, it is expected that health staff will be able to provide adequate patient care and contain the outbreak.

The outbreak was declared by the Ugandan authorities and the World Health Organization on 28 July, one month after the first case was reported. Early symptoms of Ebola are similar to those of other diseases, which delayed the detection of the virus and contributed to its spread.

MSF already has a team of 26 people in Kagadi, including epidemiologists, medical specialists and water and sanitation experts. Many of them have prior experience in Ebola outbreaks, haemorrhagic fevers and other rare diseases. This means MSF is using tried and tested approach to guarantee the quality of medical activities and infection control.