The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is deeply saddened by the death of a Sierra Leone Red Cross Society staff member to the Ebola virus disease.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of this brave staff member during this particularly difficult time. We are extremely grateful for his work and dedication to the Red Cross, and to the fight against this deadly disease,” said Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General, IFRC.
The staff member was a nurse working at the IFRC Ebola treatment centre in Kenema. He passed away on 13 January 2015 and was confirmed positive for Ebola virus disease later that day. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is currently carrying out an investigation to determine how the staff member became infected, and if it happened at home or while on the job. There are 29 people who had contact with the deceased staff member who are currently being monitored for symptoms.
144 national staff and 19 international staff work at the IFRC treatment centre in Kenema. Since it opened in September, they have cared for more than 500 patients. This is the first death of a Red Cross volunteer or staff member in Sierra Leone since response operations were launched in April 2014.
The Red Cross follows very strict protocols for staff and volunteers, and takes their health and safety extremely seriously. However, there is no such thing as zero risk when fighting an infectious disease such as Ebola. Volunteers and staff are deployed only after they have been fully trained and have the proper personal protective equipment which includes protective suits, gloves, masks and goggles.
“The death of a Red Cross staff member underscores how those who respond to the Ebola outbreak are on the front lines of this crisis - risking their health and, in some cases, their life, to assist those who are affected by the disease,” said Mr Sy.
With close to 8,000 confirmed cases of Ebola and more than 3,000 deaths from the virus, Sierra Leone is the country worst affected by the outbreak which has been ravaging West Africa for more than one year. More than 2,200 volunteers from the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society are currently working across the country to control Ebola, raising awareness in communities, tracing contacts, and providing almost 5,000 burials.
“Although we have seen some encouraging signs, with cases stabilizing across the country over the past few weeks, Ebola is still very real and it is still here,” said Moulaye Camara, IFRC head of delegation in Sierra Leone. “It is critical we remain vigilant in the battle against this disease, until we are down to zero cases.”
For media enquiries:
Please contact Rebecca Dunne, Irish Red Cross, 087 743 3275 / firstname.lastname@example.org / 01 642 4628