Holloway woman reports back from Ebola hospital in Sierra Leone

Rebecca Stretch

Rebecca Stretch - Credit: Archant

A Holloway woman risking her life in west Africa to help prevent the spread of the Ebola virus has reported back from the front line.

Rebecca Stretch, who specialises in the prevention and control of infectious diseases for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, travelled to Kemena in Sierra Leone last month to teach people in hospitals how to deal with the spread of the virus which has now killed more than 2,000 people.

Rebecca volunteered in Sierra Leone in 2002 during the civil war in the country, and is putting her self in harms way again to help others.

After her first two weeks in seeing the effects of the deadly virus on the country, she described how whole families have been destroyed by the epidemic.

She is working with two American doctors, but says staffing is low due to the number of nurses that have died from the disease.

“The treatment hospital is overfull with patients arriving all the time and there are not enough beds for everyone,” said Ms Stretch. “Babies and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. There are many children who have lost their whole family.

“However, on a positive note, eight patients were discharged yesterday and had fully recovered.”

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Ebola is transmitted from person-to-person by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone with the disease. Ms Stretch hopes to use her expertise to stop the disease and says she feels duty bound, because of her knowledge, to help.

“I think if somebody doesn’t help people there, then who will?” she said.

“We can’t just put a fence up and ignore the problem. It is dangerous but I am not reckless. I think I will be safe but things can go wrong even if you take the right precautions. Last time I went to Sierra Leone it was one of the most dangerous places on earth and I couldn’t go as far east as Kemena as it was too unsafe.

“This time is different – it is not a case of people purposefully harming people but a disease and all the suffering that brings.

“The last thing you’ll feel like when you get home is a hero.”

Ms Stretch will be in Sierra Leone for a month.