Australian doctor fights virus

AN AUSTRALIAN doctor is at the frontline of efforts to curb the first outbreak of Ebola since 2012, as the deadly virus poses a new threat in western Africa.

Sydney-based public health expert Dr Richard Broome has flown to Sierra Leone where he is working as part an emergency response team organised by the international Red Cross.

He arrived on June 2, around a week after the World Health Organisation was notified of the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

It is the first time the virus has been seen on the western edge of the African continent, with earlier Ebola outbreaks confined to central nations including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"This outbreak was first discovered in Guinea in March this year and it is the first time Ebola has affected this part of west Africa," Dr Broome said. 

"Because of that, it presents some particular challenges; first of all that people here don't know about Ebola - the signs and symptoms - and why it is so important if they have these symptoms to seek medical care."

Up to 90 per cent of people who become infected with Ebola virus die as a result.

On June 6 there were five confirmed Ebola deaths, and 33 confirmed cases, in Sierra Leone.

"There are now more than 80 confirmed cases and there have been about 40 deaths likely attributed to Ebola," Dr Broome said.

"But there is also a piece of good news in that ten people have survived and been discharged from the hospital here, including one lady who was pregnant.

"That was a particularly miraculous event because, as far as I'm aware, no pregnant person has been able to survive Ebola before."

Dr Broome is involved in coordinating the public health response to the virus, with a focus on ensuring healthcare workers in remote areas have the necessary protective equipment.

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