Tragedy in Devil Hole: The aftermath of a wrong test result

In the last days of 2014, a dramatic case of Ebola in the Western Area happened. More than 100 people were quarantined in one single village. I will summarize the timeline:

Mrs Isa Tullah, living in Devil Hole/Zimi was brought to the hospital in Maccauley Street, Freetown, as suspected Ebola case. They took a blood sample and the blood was tested in the Central Lab. Result: negative. Logically, the doctors discharged her on the 22nd December. She died three days later on the 25th. But since the result was negative, the family was sure it was NOT Ebola and invited family, friends and neighbours in order to bid farewell to her, as requested by local customs.

On the 27th neighbours started displaying the first symptoms. But it was not before the 2nd January that in the course of the “Western Area Surge”, a governmental mass social mobilization, it was discovered that more than 30 suspected cases had emerged in the said community. 28 already confirmed as positive.

This single case study illustrates how the fight against Ebola suffers from drawbacks again and again. One single mistake – maybe a blood test got mixed up, maybe a test failed, maybe laboratory staff made a mistake – and immediately 28 people are infected. Ebola does not forgive mistakes.

I twittered about that incident, which led to an interesting discussion.

We from Welthungerhilfe immediately offered our support in form of food kits to the quarantined families in Devil Hole. On top of that, the community will be integrated into our own Social Mobilisation project in order to avoid another tragedy. The case illustrates that it is indeed necessary to insure that ALL dead are buried in a “safe and dignified” way. The risk is too high that a previous mistake causes more, avoidable deaths.

This article is an English translation by Julia. Find the original German article.

Julia Broska

Julia arbeitet für die Welthungerhilfe im Projektmanagement in Sierra Leone. Sie beschreibt in diesem Blog ihre persönlichen Eindrücke. Ihre Meinung muss sich nicht mit der der Welthungerhilfe decken. Bevor Julia nach Sierra Leone kam war sie in Nord Korea im Einsatz. Sie schreibt auch Artikel für den offiziellen Blog der Welthungerhilfe

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Über Julia Broska

Julia arbeitet für die Welthungerhilfe im Projektmanagement in Sierra Leone. Sie beschreibt in diesem Blog ihre persönlichen Eindrücke. Ihre Meinung muss sich nicht mit der der Welthungerhilfe decken. Bevor Julia nach Sierra Leone kam war sie in Nord Korea im Einsatz. Sie schreibt auch Artikel für den offiziellen Blog der Welthungerhilfe

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