The rate of Ebola cases in one part of Liberia, where a certain rubber tree plantation operates, is far lower than in other parts of the country, suggesting that the strategies the company uses to reduce transmission of the virus could be useful elsewhere, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The company, Firestone Liberia, Inc., has operated the planation since 1926, and the company-run hospital provides health services to plant's employees and their family members, a total of about 80,000 people.
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 23, there were 71 Ebola cases in the Firestone community, a rate of 0.09 percent, which is much lower than the rate of 0.23 percent in the rest of Margibi County, Liberia, where Firestone is located.
"I went to see the Firestone hospital in Liberia at the end of August," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. "I saw how careful and meticulous the staff is and how compassionately they care for Ebola patients and their families. This shows that it's possible to contain Ebola with meticulous attention to detail and care for patients."
Some of the company's response strategies may have helped limit the spread of the virus in the community, researchers say.
The company rapidly established a system to manage the outbreak, and immediately isolated people with Ebola in a dedicated part of the company hospital, the CDC said. [Could Ebola Become Airborne?]
In addition, people who had high-risk contact with Ebola patients were offered a voluntary quarantine in schools that served as centers for this purpose, where each quarantined family stayed in a separate classroom. People who had low-risk contact with patients were also monitored, but not quarantined. This monitoring of contacts likely facilitated prompt identification of new Ebola cases, the CDC said.
While in quarantine, families received personal protective equipment, sanitary supplies and education on how to prevent Ebola transmission.
In the rest of Liberia, such education and supplies could limit Ebola transmission among family members who are caring for Ebola patients in their homes, the CDC said. The country does not have enough Ebola treatment units to care for everyone with the virus, so many families are caring for Ebola patients at home.
The Firestone hospital also screened for Ebola among all patients who entered the hospital, even those who came to the hospital for another reason. As a result of this screening, three patients were sent to the hospital's Ebola treatment unit between Aug. 1 and Sep. 23, and one turned out to have Ebola.
This screening practice, as well as the establishment of a separate unit to treat Ebola patients "might serve as a model for infection control practices to other county health care facilities providing both non-Ebola and Ebola-related care," the report said.