Ebola vaccine trial as Sierra Leone celebrates milestone to ending Ebola

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 August 2015

Adama Sankoh - Ebola survivor sierra-leone

Sierra Leone celebrated an important milestone yesterday, Monday, 24 August 2015.

According to WHO report, for the first time in more than a year, no one in the country is being treated for Ebola virus disease and no confirmed new cases have been found in the past 17 days.

Surrounded by singing, dancing and clapping by health-care workers, Adama Sankoh – a palm oil trader – the last known Ebola patent in Sierra Leone, was released from the Makeni Ebola treatment unit.

In the ceremony held to mark the final Ebola case, the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, described Madame Sankoh’s release as “the beginning of the end of Ebola.”

president koroma washes hands at lungi airport 2015

“Ebola nor don yaet” (Ebola is not yet finished) the President told Madame Sankoh as he handed her a certificate confirming that she was now negative for Ebola virus. (Photo: President Koroma practicing what he preaches during the height of the crisis last year).

President Koroma told Madame Sankoh to remind her friends and family to call the Ebola hotline immediately, if anyone in their community develops symptoms of Ebola or dies at home.

Madame Sankoh told the gathering of health-care workers, Ebola survivors, leaders of national and district Ebola response teams and representatives of the agencies working to fight Ebola, that she had learned about the disease the hard way.

Now, she said, she knows that safe burial and thorough handwashing is essential for protecting against Ebola virus disease.

While the mood was celebratory, President Koroma reminded the gathering that Ebola transmission would not be considered ended in Sierra Leone “until the WHO declares we have gone 42 days with no case.” The 42-day period begins on Tuesday, 25 August.

Even then, said President Koroma, Ebola could not be considered over until every country in the ‘sub-region’ made up of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had gone 42 days with no case after the last confirmed case had been discharged from treatment or, if they had died, safely buried.

Dr AndersDr Anders Nordström, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone said “This is an important milestone for Sierra Leone. But the hard work that got Sierra Leone to this point has to continue.”

“Surveillance, searching for cases, notifying any deaths in the community, testing anyone with Ebola symptoms, all must continue intensively. And the community involvement that has led us to this point must continue as well.”

In another development, Sierra Leone’s ministry of health has announced that the Guinean Ebola Ring Vaccine Trial has been extended to Sierra Leone, as a move to stop cross-border transmissions.

Ebola vaccine teamPhoto: Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brima Kargbo in group with the Vaccine Trial Team and participants.

Addressing participants in the opening ceremony of the training session at the Brookfields Hotel Conference Hall in Freetown, the WHO Ebola Technical Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Dr. Margaret Lamumu said prior to the extension of the vaccine to Sierra Leone the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and WHO Joint Team visited five sites to discuss the results of the Guinea vaccine study.

Training of Sierra Leonean doctors and nurses in the use of the vaccine will be carried out by experts  from the UK.

Dr. Margaret Lamumu said that even after Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free, the country could still face the risk of another outbreak, hence the training is vital.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brima Kargbo said that the vaccine would help break the chain of transmission, and stressed the need to work collectively as a team to control the spread of the disease in Sierra Leone.

He noted that with Ebola still present in Sierra Leone, the risk to other countries in the region – especially Guinea and Liberia is a worry.

Dr. Kargbo said that a large number of compatriots lost their lives at the height of the Ebola crisis, but with surveillance, community engagement and community ownership of the problem and solution, the ministry of health will be able to successfully implement its post recovery strategy in meeting the challenges ahead.

Dr James RussellDr. James Russell (Photo) who has been appointed to lead the Ebola vaccine trial in Sierra Leone, said that the trial will not involve the general population.

The trial will target those that have come into contact with Ebola sufferers – including family members, so as to tackle the spread and transmission of the virus, he said.

The WHO Country Representative Dr. Anders Nordstrom spoke about the safety of the vaccine and it’s efficacy, and welcomed the extension of the trial to Sierra Leone.

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