Caring for Ebola survivors

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When people who survive Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) leave the Ebola treatment unit (ETU), everybody celebrates. However, emerging from the ETU is just the beginning of their long journey to regain health.

New research shows survivors most commonly face severe joint pains, eye problems leading to loss of vision in some cases, severe fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, and mental health challenges after recovery from acute EVD. However, there are very limited data on the types and frequency of the various reported health problems, or the best practices for clinical management.

‘We have never had such a large number of survivors. This is very new. We have a unique and important responsibility to provide care and support for Ebola survivors trying to restart their normal lives. It is increasingly clear that emerging from an ETU is just the beginning. The countries affected by Ebola also have a long road to recovery,’ says Dr. Anders Nordstrom, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for Sierra Leone.

This was among the conclusions of a scientific meeting on the needs of survivors held by the WHO in Freetown, Sierra Leone with clinicians, scientists, epidemiologists, and other public health practitioners. Their goal is to produce a ‘Comprehensive Care Plan for EVD Survivors’ and identify research needed to optimise clinical care and social wellbeing.

‘It is an emergency within an emergency,’ said Dr. Daniel Bausch of the WHO clinical care team. ‘We have to help people not just survive but thrive.’

Dr. Nordstrom said: ‘The Ebola outbreak has decimated families, health systems, economies, and social structures. All need to recover.’

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