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article imageWHO and Canada pull Ebola health teams out of Sierra Leone

By Karen Graham     Aug 27, 2014 in Health
Freetown - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday announced the closing of one of its labs in Sierra Leone after a health care worker became infected with Ebola. At the same time, Canada announced they were recalling their three-member lab team.
The fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has been hit a devastating blow after the announcement by WHO on Tuesday, and doubly so by the recalling of the Canadian three-member mobile laboratory team. There are two laboratories in the country that test for Ebola, and with the closing of the lab in Kailahun, further efforts in containing the virus have been made all the more difficult.
WHO's reason for closing the laboratory is because one of their health care workers, a Senegalese epidemiologist, came down with the Ebola virus disease. "It's a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers," WHO spokesperson Christy Feig told Reuters, without specifying how long the measure would last. "After our assessment, they will return." The three Canadians were among the six workers in the lab.
Canada's Public Health Agency (PHAC) spokesman Sean Upton said late on Tuesday the three-person team was being recalled because three people in the hotel complex where they were staying had come down with Ebola virus. Upton also said the members had not had any contact with the three sick people nor were they showing any symptoms of illness.
There are five other Canadian health care workers with Doctors Without Borders stationed in Sierra Leone. The three returning team members are from Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory. They will be in voluntary isolation and will be monitored as they return to Canada, according to PHAC.
Since the Ebola virus was first detected in forests of southeastern Guinea in March, almost 1,427 people have died and 2,615 have been infected with the disease. To date more than 240 health care workers have come down with the Ebola virus, and at least 120 have died, according to WHO.
In responding to the closure of one of the two field laboratories in Sierra Leone, Dr Daniel Kertesz, the WHO Representative in Sierra Leone, said in a release: "This was the responsible thing to do. The field team has been through a traumatic time through this incident. They are exhausted from many weeks of heroic work, helping patients infected with Ebola. When you add a stressor like this, the risk of accidents increases."
More about Canada health team, ebola outbreak, WHO laboratory, Sierra leone, precautionary measure
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