In August 2014, WHO called upon its collaborative centers to contribute to the emergency response to the Ebola outbreak. Three GHRP team members were deployed to the WHO headquarters in Geneva on October 20th and 21st in order to help strategize the Ebola response. The GHRP has been involved in four tasks pertaining to the Ebola response.
First, the WHO is in the process of developing a manual for Occupational Health and Safety in Epidemic Preparedness and Response to Ebola and Marburg Virus Disease. The GHRP is contributing substantially to this manual by synthesizing evidence, and outlining key messages on risk factors, health effects, and measures of control in the context of Ebola for five themes: psycho-social stress, violence, ergonomics, and monitoring and surveillance of staff and facilities. The manual will be released in the next few weeks and will be made widely available.
Second, the GHRP developed interactive animated educational tools adapted for the Ebola response in the African context. For example, the tool “Protect Patti” (freely available at : http://innovation.ghrp.ubc.ca/ebola/ ) teaches healthcare workers proper donning and doffing procedures in order to minimize infection risk.
Third, the GHRP developed self-assessment checklists for deployed staff based on the WHO Ebola outbreak response handbook for health and safety in the field. This checklist will be adapted to a smartphone application for deployed staff to use in the field to assess their safety. The GHRP has world class expertise in surveillance tools and surveillance systems in low-income settings. For example, we have worked with our South Africans partners for years to build capacity in monitoring and surveillance in South Africa. Surveillance tools and surveillance system may be adapted for the Ebola response in West Africa.
Fourth, authorities do not know why healthcare workers become infected with Ebola. Is this high rate of infection due to poor training in doffing personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequacy or unavailability of PPE, fatigue, etc? To shed light on the reasons behind occupational infection, the GHRP proposes to conduct an occupational health-focused study concerned with uncovering the most important risk situations. This study might be a case-control study, or a qualitative study with interviews with survivors of Ebola. Many barriers to such studies are currently being assessed, including recall bias, reporting bias, and the logistic difficulties in interviewing people in the field.