One of the biggest roadblocks in West Africa to containing the Ebola outbreak is the lack of isolation wards for people who are infected. President Obama has announced plans to build 17 new Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia.
In Monrovia, efforts are also underway to start training local doctors, nurses and janitors on how to safely take care of patients who are sick with the deadly disease.
On a recent day, trainees dressed in white Tyvek suits, gloves, goggles and face masks were trying to restrain an Ebola patient thrashing around on the ward.
The exercise is part of a one-week course to try to get new workers ready to handle the challenges of an Ebola ward. Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease specialist from the University of British Columbia, is one of the WHO staff guiding the trainees.
WHO hopes to be able to train several thousand new workers in the coming months. All of them are Liberian and all of them have to work in head-to-toe protective gear.
Everyone on the team is exhausted and overheated in their protective suits. As they move through the mock Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU, many of them are having problems with their goggles fogging up. One doctor rips a glove and struggles to pull on another one over the torn latex. Sweat drips around the edges of their surgical masks.
After the team finally disposes of a body, they head to the exit where they’re sprayed off with a chlorine solution. Taking off the protective gear also must be done carefully to make sure there’s no exposure to the virus.