Iowa Ebola Director Says Better Communication Key to Stopping Outbreak

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Dr. Samir Koirala (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa — Make shift hospitals. People covered head to toe in protective suits.

Patients are dead by the thousands and doctors from the United States are traveling to Africa to help, only to return home with Ebola themselves.

Dr. Samir Koirala, an epidemiologist with the Iowa Department of Public Health knew the risks of going to Sierra Leone to assist the CDC in preventing the spread of Ebola and chose to go anyways.

“Getting international doctors there is not a problem because they understand the risk and know what precautions they need to take,” said Dr. Koirala.

During his 25 days in Sierra Leone, Dr. Koirala worked on a database to help doctors keep track of patients being transferred to treatment centers across Africa.

He didn’t make direct contact with patients, but did get a good feel for why Ebola will be so difficult to stop.

“People believe that once you go to the hospital, you are not coming back. You will be dead. That belief has to be changed,” Dr. Koirala told Channel 13 News.

Along with the fear of being diagnosed with no cure, Dr. Koirala says many African people don’t even believe Ebola is real and are fearful of a government scam or that doctors will kill them and sell their organs for profit.

“There are rumors that the government is trying to make some kind of currency and need blood for that,” said Dr. Koirala.

Dr. Koirala believes better equipped treatment centers and diagnostic facilities will slow the outbreak, but says the biggest challenge is earning the trust of the African people.

In countries where most of the news comes from word of mouth, he admits that won’t be easy.

“There have been successfully treated people and they have been discharged. That message isn’t coming out,” said Dr. Koirala.

To date, the World Health Organization estimates 2,500 people have died from Ebola.

So far there is no vaccine or sure fire cure for the disease.


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