North Yorkshire grandmother's role with Ebola victims in Liberia and Guinea

North Yorkshire grandmother's role with Ebola victims in Liberia and Guinea

North Yorkshire grandmother's role with Ebola victims in Liberia and Guinea

First published in News

A GRANDMOTHER from North Yorkshire has told of her time working with victims of the deadly Ebola virus.

Cokie van der Velde, 54, of Whixley, works as a sanitation expert with Medecins sans Frontieres in Liberia and Guinea, where an outbreak of the disease is currently affecting much of the population.

She said: “When I first arrived in Liberia there were four or five people in the treatment centre, but when I left it was overflowing. The morgue was full, and people were turning up at the gate with their sick relatives, asking how they could protect themselves.

“Some of those who died initially were health workers.

At the start of the outbreak health workers were not taking proper precautions and the disease spread through hospital staff. This contributed to the breakdown of the local health system. I visited one hospital that had 450 beds - 448 were empty and all the health staff had fled.”

Ms van der Velde returned to the UK last week, but said she worried about the spread of the disease while working overseas.

“There was no time to think when I was working but at night it was hard to sleep - especially after we found out that two workers from another NGO had contracted Ebola.

“I would lie awake wondering whether I was getting a sore throat, a temperature or a fever. I recently started checking my temperature about ten times a night. You couldn’t help wondering about everyone you met - you worried about the people they’d been in contact with. You imagined how you would tell your family if you had Ebola.”

Meanwhile, experts have moved to calm fears of a US outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus as the first victim brought from Africa is treated at a special isolation unit at one of the top hospitals.

Fear that the outbreak killing more than 700 people in Africa could spread in the US has generated public anxiety.

But infectious disease experts say there is zero risk as Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, treats critically ill missionary Dr Kent Brantly and a charity worker infected in Liberia.

Dr Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who will arrive soon, will be treated in Emory’s isolation unit for infectious diseases.

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