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Donations saught to help prevent spread of deadly virus

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - A Medical Teams International staffer talks about Ebola transmission in Monrovia, Liberias capital.The deadliest outbreak of Ebola in human history is ravaging West Africa, and one Tigard group stepped up to help.

Medical Teams International has long been the first line of defense when disasters strike around the world, sending medical equipment and teams of volunteer medical professionals where they are needed.

The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has left more than 1,000 dead in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria since it began last December.

With no vaccine or cure, the virus is often fatal.

Joe DiCarlo, the group’s vice president of international programs, said the crisis was “the most severe challenge we’ve dealt with since coming to Liberia 10 years ago.”

“As in all our work around the world, we’re committed to responding to the most urgent needs and reaching and caring for the most vulnerable,” he said.

Rather than have medical experts on the ground treating patients directly, Liberia’s Ministry of Health has tasked the organization with educating the community, said Medical Teams’ President Jeff Pinneo.

You can help

Medical Teams is currently looking for donations to help contain the virus. To donate, visit www.medicalteams.org.

“Our support, with guidance from the Liberian Ministry of Health, is to prioritize education through community health workers,” Pinneo wrote on the organization’s blog “This has been deemed the best way to combat the spread of Ebola.”

Medical Teams has maintained offices in Liberia since the end of that country’s civil war, and 15 full-time staffers run maternal and child health programs in rural areas. Those staffers have remained and are continuing their work, Pinneo said, as well as spreading information about the virus.

The organization is instead educating Liberian health workers on how to treat the virus, teaching people how the virus spreads and dispelling rumors, Pinneo said.

“Health workers are afraid to go to work for fear of infection, and non-Ebola-related deaths result,” MTI officials wrote. “MTI is training in the basics of Ebola and how to protect themselves from infection.”

Medical Teams has been sending medical supplies and training for Liberian health workers for months and announced last week that it was ramping up efforts to fight the virus by sending additional staff to support on-site Liberian staff and expanding its response to Monserrado County, which is home to one of the highest number of cases in the country.

For many of the disasters Medical Teams responds to, it sends volunteer aid workers to treat the infected.

Alan Jamison, a retired doctor from Tennessee, traveled to Liberia as a volunteer for Medical Teams earlier this year, treating patients until July, according to Medical Teams officials. The Ministry of Health has since recommended that volunteers be sent home for their own protection.

Jamison has worked at the same ELWA Hospital where American aid workers Kent Grantly and Nancy Writebol contracted the virus.

At the same time, violent demonstrations were taking place about ELWA’s Ebola isolation unit, Medical Teams reported.

“For Dr. Jamison’s security, we thought it prudent to bring him home at this time,” Pinneo wrote. “He has expressed appreciation for the continued support he has received, feels excellent and is confident he does not have Ebola.”

Ebola does not become contagious until symptoms begin to develop. Jamison returned home and placed himself in a 21-day quarantine to ensure he had not contracted the virus.

His quarantine ended in early August.

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