New Ebola treatment centre in DR Congo lets patients speak to relatives

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(10 Sep 2018) An aid group in the Democratic Republic of Congo is for the first time treating confirmed Ebola victims in what is called the CUBE, individual biosecure units used in emergencies involving highly infectious diseases.
ALIMA (The Alliance For International Medical Action) runs the 18-bed center in Beni.
The cubicles, which have been used in outbreaks of Lassa fever in Nigeria and Marburg in Uganda, allow the treatment of Ebola to be more social for worried families, said Dr. Oummani Rouafi, ALIMA’s medical coordinator.
With the cubicles, health workers can largely operate without the protective equipment that posed a sweaty, humid challenge in the devastating West Africa outbreak in 2014-2016, instead treating patients via external arm holes.
Two times a day, Kasereka Mulanda comes to the new Ebola treatment centre to visit his wife, easing the isolation of a highly contagious disease.
Stepping up to the clear plastic sheeting around the cubicle where his wife is staying, he can speak with her without the need for a protective suit.
In a part of Congo that faces a deadly Ebola outbreak for the first time, the contact is reassuring.
“When she looks at me and smiles and asks how our two children are doing, I tell her they are well,” the 24-year-old Mulanda said. “I feel that we are together again and that she will quickly return home.”
The current Ebola outbreak in northeastern Congo, declared on Aug. 1, has become a testing ground in more ways than one.
Over 7,000 people have received an experimental Ebola vaccine.
More than two dozen have received one of several experimental treatments.
Simply combating the virus is a challenge in a densely populated region, roamed by multiple armed groups, that health workers have called a war zone.
At the new Ebola treatment centre, fears about the hemorrhagic fever are calmed to some degree as family members pull up molded plastic chairs to the cubicles and even hold up small children to say hello.
While Mulanda said he likes the approach, he is eager to bring his wife home.
“We’ve been married for six years and it’s difficult to be alone and do the chores alone”, he said.
Of the 16 confirmed Ebola cases treated at the centre, four people have recovered, four remain in treatment and eight have died.
Overall the outbreak in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces has seen 100 confirmed Ebola cases, including 58 deaths.

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