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Coda Change

Sep 26, 2016

Nikki Blackwell tells her story of the emergency response to the Ebola outbreak in Nzerekore, Guinea. She chronicles the enormous challenges of providing care to some of the most vulnerable people in the world, in one of the most under resourced and challenging environments.

The Ebola virus was first isolated in 1976. Between then and 2013 there were twenty outbreaks of Ebola. However, the outbreaks, although vicious, were relatively small and in isolated areas. This outbreak was by far the most complex, with a mortality rate of up to 40%. The fruit bat is the natural host and reservoir of Ebola. They transmit it to other animals, and ultimately humans. Human to human transmission occurs from body fluids, mucous membranes, and sexual contacts.

Nzerekore, Guinea has a terrible health service and infrastructure stemming from a long period of conflict. This is further exacerbated by the scarce number of doctors. Further, what compounded the problem even more was the delayed recognition and action from the international community.

Eventually, Nikki and the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had funding to launch a project, providing care to the region that was dealing with a devastating epidemic. What followed was an eye-opening experience for Nikki and her team. Nikki highlights the endless challenges she faced in delivery care in her role as Medical Director on the project. These include hot, dusty conditions with the constant stench of chlorine. Heavy, thick biohazard suits that take 30 minutes to get into and can only be worn for one hour due to the extreme nature of the dehydration and exhaustion they cause.

Lastly Nikki describes the technical and emotional difficulties of providing care to this population of people with grave illness, constantly surrounded by death, all heightened by the real fear of the staff falling ill.

Finally, Join Nikki as she tells her incredible tale of the Ebola outbreak in Nzerekore, Guinea as Medical Director for the MSF.

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