BOONE — In preparations for a potential Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Boone-based international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse held preparedness training on Oct. 4.
Samaritan’s Purse Medical Technical Advisor Megan Vitek, who has been to Liberia to help those afflicted, said the training is a must for those who wish to help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola is deadly virus that is spread through direct contact with an infected animal or person, even if the person is dead. The disease is mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, although isolated cases have sprung up across the globe due to travel.
The training had education and field training components, with the latter seeing the response teams go through a mock field tent area meant to mimic an Ebola treatment center.
With no FDA-approved antiviral drug for Ebola available, Samaritan’s Purse makes sure its respondents are covered head to toe before going into Ebola-afflicted zones, going through strict regiments to put on and take off their suits, gloves, boots, masks and hair nets.
Vitek said that since there is no treatment, the response teams comfort and help the afflicted stay hydrated, which helps the person’s immune system “catch up” with the virus and fight back.
Vitek said that part of the education in Liberia included getting locals to change customs, such as the kissing of dead bodies before burial and eating of “bushmeat” of monkeys.
In the treatment areas, response team members are always going forward, never returning to the same area in the process of putting on or taking off the suits. When coming out of an area, the team members are sprayed with a chlorine-water mix while taking off each layer to disinfect the suits.
Vitek noted the training process has been developed over the years by the World Health Organization. Team members are recommended to only be in the suits an hour due to loss of fluids, but can go longer at night times when temperatures cool off. Volunteers sometimes go through the process two to three times a day.
“I’ve taken the suit off and been covered head to toe in sweat,’ Vitek said.
Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Tom Layton said that the current Ebola outbreak in the Congo isn’t as big as the one in west Africa that started in 2014 and killed over 11,000, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. However, the sporadic outbreaks in the Congo, which aren’t related to the west African outbreaks, could result in intervention if the virus spreads.
“We’re ready to go if needed,” Vitek said.