Anaesthetist Jenny Stedmon is ready to join the front line fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak and will soon leave her Brisbane home for West Africa.
Dr Stedmon is joining over 1500 other international Red Cross aid workers to help those affected by the dreaded virus, which has so far killed over 1200 people and infected twice that figure since it surfaced in Guinea in March.
Considering it’s one of the worst outbreaks in history and is transferred by direct exposure to bodily fluid secretions from an infected person, Dr Stedmon is being incredibly brave in the face of danger.
“I have a healthy respect for this disease,” Dr Stedmon told AAP.
“But if the proper precautions are taken the risk of infection is low.”
Her husband, however, is a little more apprehensive.
“He was a little concerned,” she said.
“But he’s been more happy after hearing about all the protective clothing we’ll use.
“And I’m not the first person going in.”
Dr Stedmon will spend one month in a Sierra Leone hospital with one of the highest numbers of Ebola victims.
While there, she and her fellow aid workers will establish a field hospital and emergency unit to help cope with the demand.
Amongst her jobs will be administering medication and fluids to victims through intravenous drips.
“Quite often they’ll initially need fluid resuscitation,” she said, as the disease causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Being a very hot and humid country there’s a high instance of dehydration.”
While the fatality rate of this outbreak was initially almost 90 per cent, it’s dropped to below 60 per cent as awareness and medical care has rippled through West Africa.
Two American missionaries that were infected in Liberia have now been saved by US doctors, who used an experimental treatment.
Doctor Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, 60, became sick last month and were airlifted to a university hospital in Atlanta, Georgia where they have both recovered.
This kind of progress buoys Dr Stedmon.
“Things are looking up and there are some positive stories of survival,” she said.
“The message is kicking in of education. People are surviving because they’re getting early intervention.
“That is why the mortality rate is dropping.
“I’m expecting a lot of activity in the areas of vaccinations.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the current Ebola outbreak as a pandemic and it’s feared it may spread outside of Africa.
But Dr Stedmon believes it’s still possible to contain it.
“With world travel as it is, I imagine everywhere is at reasonably equal risk,” she said.
“But I think with proper education, resources and continued effort it’s quite possible to control things.”