OB Sisay urges us to learn from the Western Africa Ebola virus epidemic (2013-2016) and make informed decisions about the COVID-19 outbreak across the continent.

OB Sisay was Director of The Situation Room at the National Ebola Response Centre of Sierra Leone during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. He was awarded a Gold Medal by the President of Sierra Leone and awarded an OBE by HM The Queen for his role in ending the outbreak.

Summary from the article COVID-19 Lessons from West Africa’s Battle against Ebola by OB Sisay (March 2020)

Originally published at politica.think.bm
Image source: politica.think.bm
  • Fact check: don’t fall for conspiracy theories
  • During the initial stages of the Ebola outbreak, WHO and governments presented conflicting figures about infections and deaths – therefore citizens didn’t believe Ebola even existed
  • Instead of emphasising the lack of a cure, focus on the chances of survival with early diagnosis and following guidelines & safety instructions
  • Some went to traditional healers creating new infection hotspots as those healers, their patients and families got sick, traveled home and spread it further 
    • call or text your traditional healer instead and ask for remote guidance
  • Some took paracetamol to fool temperature checks at the airport
    • people are not always rational when they think they might die
  • Health facilities can tragically become infection centers
    • Understand and implement infection prevention measures to protect staff and patients
  • Viral epidemics often infect medical staff in the second assault
    • Death rates for other diseases will rise

Requirements for mass population movement restrictions

Keep people supplied with essentials (food, goods, medical care)

  • Decide case by case: keep confined people at home or bring them to the health facilities for closer monitoring of symptoms?
  • Rule of thumb: stay at home as long as possible / at home minimize contact with confined ppl while maximising safety measures (disinfection, physical distance)

Cures and vaccines need to be developed during the outbreak 

Economic and other public policy responses have to be highly dynamic
How do we pay for the response before/during/after the outbreak?

  • Globally, richer countries have to support LMICs to people as well as supply chains
  • Companies have to repurpose their entire supply model to ensure resilience

Municipal administration

  • Companies, schools, the police, public offices, prisons etc. all have to review first aid & isolation and capabilities and training
OB Sisay was at the heart of Sierra Leone’s response to the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2016. Here he tells us about the importance of contact tracing, and what lessons they learned during that time which can be applied to the current coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the difference between the two viruses. He was speaking to Bola Mosuro. (Picture: A woman talks to a health official in South Africa. Credit: Getty Images) // bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p088lrb5

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Case study: 2014 Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa. This case study is based on a preliminary work presented as a poster at COAR conferences annual meeting 2019 and ElPub 2019.


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