University nurse aids Ebola effort in Liberia

A University of Dundee nurse has returned from aiding the effort to combat Ebola in Liberia.

Dr Steve McSwiggan is a Senior Clinical Trials Manager in the Tayside Medical Science Centre, which is a partnership between the University and NHS Tayside. He went to Liberia late last year to help establish and deliver a clinical trial looking at the effectiveness of a drug to treat the disease.

“There’s no doubt it is very challenging being there but it was also tremendously rewarding and I can only hope that our efforts will be helpful in finding treatments for Ebola,” said Steve, who was seconded to Oxford University and worked in the Medecins Sans Frontieres Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia.

“I was involved in establishing the clinical trial at the busiest Ebola treatment centre in Liberia, so I was very close to the sharp end of dealing with the outbreak. There is an urgent need to come up with evidence based treatments for this devastating disease and I was privileged to have been involved in that.

“The outbreak has been well managed in Liberia and the number of cases arriving at that centre has decreased from around 20 or 30 a day a few months ago to now only one or two a day. But it is startling to see the effects the disease has had. You see people arriving, walking in with a fever, diarrhoea and vomiting and then just a few days later many of them have died'.

“It is hard to imagine the death rate caused by Ebola, but it is the equivalent of working in an Accident & Emergency Unit here in the UK and seeing two out of every three patients who come in die soon after admission.”

Steve said the resilience of staff on the ground in Liberia had been tremendous.

“The thing that impressed me most was the dedication of the local staff. They have seen so many of their colleagues die and they know they are at considerable risk themselves but they have continued to work on in the face of that and they are having a tremendous impact in battling and containing Ebola in Liberia.”

Steve is currently all but confined to home in Dundee for a 21-day spell as a safety precaution on returning from the zone in which the disease is prevalent. He said he would encourage others to help in the fight against Ebola.

“There is a great deal of money which has already been committed by many agencies to battling the Ebola outbreak but it is people that are really needed there and not just health care staff, but people with logistical skills, who can help set up camps, organise sanitation, assist in contact tracing and so on,” he said.

“I am just glad I was able to go out there and help. I am also extremely grateful to the University for approving my secondment and to my colleagues for making sure my work here was covered while I was away.”

Roddy Isles
Head of Press
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