Friday 3 April 2015

Hans Rosling, a micro-outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and trust issues in Guinea...

As is always the case, Prof Rosling can be seen in front of an audience here, providing a beautifully articulated example of how trust in the Ebola virus disease (EVD) treatment centre/unit plays such a pivotal role in (a) the containment of EVD, even witting a family and its contacts, and (b), the likelihood of survival of EVD patients.

Frame taken from a BBC News video which was being hosted in
an African Geographic Magazine story here. Red dots are survivors,
black dots are deaths
Click on image to enlarge.
In this example, which you can listen to in its entirety here, as time went on, trust grew and this fewer transmission occurred and more f those infected, survived.

This would seem to be a great example of what is lacking in Guinea - trust - a lack of trust that others are be able to stop the spread of virus and to save the lives of those infected. Thus people are not presenting for help at all and still being managed in the community - possibly infecting others - or else they are not presenting early enough, before the disease has done too much damage to the person. Trust and communication is increasingly seen as being as important to the successful reduction of cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone as the building of treatment centres - the two must co-occur.

Trust comes from understanding, and that is heavily influenced by communication. Communication of accurate information, of clear and digestible information. Communication to the right people using the moist effective channels is also essential.

It still feels like communication, or at least accurate and successful communication accessing the key important and influential people, may be the weakest part of the response in Guinea. It seems to have been better implemented in Liberia and Sierra Leone - or maybe just better received. Is it a groundwork thing? Difference in the way science is presented in different countries? I know far too little to guess further.

There continue to be more security incidents and other types of refusal to cooperate in Guinea compared to the other two countries afflicted with the Makona variant of Ebola virus. These incidents are a marker of a community that does not believe or trust those claiming to be here to help. And that's a problem for stopping the constant rivulet of EVD cases in Guinea; a rivulet that never became the river of hundreds of EVD cases per week seen in Liberia or Sierra Leone, but was still a flow that seeded infection across the region and the world. A case anywhere is a threat everywhere, to paraphrase others.

Location of laboratories in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone
 Location of laboratories in Guinea,
Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
From WHO SitRep 01APR2015.
But there may be other issues to consider and question. 

There are fewer treatment centres and laboratories in Guinea than in Liberia or Sierra Leone - strange given that Guinea is larger and that it still has a geographically widespread distribution of cases. 

While it has lately been noted that new cases in Guinea could be adding to the tally more simply because of success in reaching more remote areas, this seems only to add support to the need for better communication and to provide more of a presence in these remote areas. Hopefully, now that this happening through the efforts of the US CDC and others, we will soon see the pay off as a reduction of EVD cases. But the rainy season is near and travel will be made into a muddy mess by that. Time has never been on the side of those trying to stop this epidemic.

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