Dublin doctor to help care for Ebola victims
Dublin dad Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick has flown out to Sierra Leone to help with the largest ever outbreak of Ebola.
There are 672 recorded deaths from the deadly virus in West Africa. Dr Fitzpatrick left for Sierra Leona last night on an open ticket.
"I'm going to Kaihlun, eastern Sierra Leone - the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak," he told the Herald.
"They're finishing a special quarantine hospital. I'll act as a doctor and also as a detective to find out where infectious diseases are coming from."
"There are 13 clusters of mini-outbreaks and there are now 1,200 confirmed cases," he added.
Dr Fitzpatrick will exercise extreme caution while in Sierra Leone.
"I'll wear a full-bodied suit, wellingtons and a mask. It spreads via bodily fluids, any bodily fluid. It's not airborne," said the doctor. "I'd like to get back to my wife and child."
The Killester native, who is volunteering with Medicins San Frontiers (MSF), admitted that both he and his wife feared for his safety.
"Oh absolutely, there's obviously fear involved, but the fear is reduced when you take precautions and wear the protective gear," he said.
"My wife worries but she understands," he added.
The doctor said that the only possibility of people in Ireland contracting the disease, which has up to a 90pc fatality rate, is if someone with Ebola travels here within 21 days of contracting it. The Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HSPC) said that there are currently no reported cases here.
"The only risk for Irish people is if someone with Ebola takes a flight from West Africa into continental Europe and then on to Ireland within 21 days - we could potentially have a case then," explained Dr Fitzpatrick.
The current outbreak, which started in Guinea, West Africa, last February, is the most severe one in the world's history.
The Dublin doctor said that the deadly virus is also spread by bats which are hunted and eaten by some people in West Africa.
People in Guinea were hunting bats before a case of Ebola was confirmed there this year.
Dr Fitzpatrick hopes to be home by mid-September, but says he is unclear about when he will return.
"I have an open ticket. Ideally if things go right it would take two months to get the situation under control," he said. "And usually they rotate staff every four to five weeks but it's quite severe out there with kids dying. It's quite traumatic," he said.
To make a donation to Medicins San Frontiers call 1800 905 509 or visit www.msf.ie