An FIU professor dispatched to Nigeria to set up Ebola screening has returned with a commitment to get more countries involved in the effort.
Dr, Aileen María Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University, spent 31 days in West Africa where she helped Nigeria set up a system to screen passengers arriving and leaving a country that has seen several Ebola cases.
Marty, who traveled as a representative of the World Health Organization, urged all countries to contribute medical personnel and resources to stop the disease from spreading globally.
“Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, has re-declared this again, I believe it was yesterday, a public health emergency of international concern,” said Marty at an FIU news conference on Monday. “What that translates into is resources and allocation of individuals, funds and whatnot to help control this outbreak.”
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The current Ebola outbreak is unprecedented. It is the largest since the Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Before the first cases of the current outbreak were acknowledged in March 2014, all outbreaks had been small and quickly contained. As of now, more than 2,700 people have died from Ebola in West Africa since March. The majority of cases have appeared in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The first case of Ebola in Nigeria occurred on July 25 when a traveler who arrived from Liberia died in Lagos. Since then, eight deaths have been reported in Nigeria.
Marty had been originally instructed by the World Health Organization to travel to Sierra Leone to attend to Ebola patients, but as the outbreak spread to Nigeria her orders changed and she was redirected to Lagos where the U.N. agency has set up an emergency operations center.
Marty said many countries are now offering to send personnel to help.
“This is wonderful,” Marty said. “But those people can’t go there if they don’t know what they’re doing. They need to be trained. It’s absolutely critical that everybody who goes there knows what they’re doing.”
The Obama administration has announced that up to 3,000 U.S. military personnel are being deployed to West Africa to help combat Ebola, along with supplies to build treatment centers and provide care to the sick. Cuba said last week it was planning to send as many as 165 health workers to Sierra Leone including doctors. Nurses and infection control experts.
“Everybody has to be involved, in their own way” she said. “What is needed is new healthcare facilities, training individuals to go there and go there properly.”
Marty replied “that would be wonderful” when asked if she would recommend that FIU become a training center for personnel tapped to go to West Africa to assist in the international disease-fighting effort.
In Nigeria, her main assignment was to organize a national system to screen for Ebola passengers arriving and leaving the country.
She was surprised that when while returning home, she did not undergo screening for Ebola as her plane landed in Europe from Nigeria. Marty also said she did not have a screening when arriving back in Miami.