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Ebola aid hero on alert after return from danger zone

A DISASTER manager who has returned from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone now has to monitor himself for three weeks to ensure he did not develop the disease while carrying out vital work there.

Mayo native Dualta Roughneen (36) works with Plan Ireland, a charity working at the coalface of the disease which kills more than half of the people who contract it.

The outbreak in Africa has caused major international concern, and the dangers of the disease are so great that disaster charities and aid agencies are finding it difficult to recruit doctors and aid workers willing to travel there.

Monitoring

Dualta arrived home on Thursday and is now monitoring himself in case he develops symptoms of Ebola.

"We underwent screening before we left Sierra Leone, such as physical checks and questioning about whether we had come in contact with anyone with the disease, or had attended funerals or handled dead bodies," said Dualta.

"I now have to monitor myself for three weeks, taking my temperature twice a day and keeping a watch out for symptoms such as pain or headaches and fever," he explained.

"It is highly unlikely that I will develop any symptoms because I wasn't in contact with any infected people, but we still have to be cautious. I am limiting my movements and exposure to people as a precaution," he added.

"If I did develop any symptoms, my next move would be alerting authorities here so I could be admitted to the isolation unit in the Mater Hospital, but I'm very confident that will not be necessary."

During his time in Sierra Leone, Dualta has been setting up Community Care Centres.

The units will provide crucial treatment for suspected cases in Port Loko, about 45 miles east of Freetown.

Five facilities will be rolled out shortly to bridge a gap in existing care and support a creaking health system.

These are a vital step in helping control the spread of Ebola in areas with very little health provision.

"We have been setting up the centres and ensuring everyone is properly trained, with adequate facilities including water, electricity, and equipment," said Dualta, who has been in Africa for six months.

Difficulty

Plan Ireland and other agencies find it is difficult to recruit staff to go to the front line.

"It is understandable I suppose. The disease is a very dangerous one and it is not yet known why some people seem to be harder hit by it than others. When half the people who contract it die from it we can see why there might be a reluctance to become involved," said Dualta.

Before he travelled, Dualta said he was "a little bit apprehensive" about Ebola.

Asked whether he worried that he might get the disease, he answered: "It does sit in the back of my mind", admitting his family - including five siblings - were more concerned than usual.

To donate to Plan Ireland see www.plan.ie/ebola or contact Freefone 1800 829 829

hnews@herald.ie


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