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Feature Ebola

UK doctors head home from Ebola frontline

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 25 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3424
  1. Andrew Johnston, consultant physician, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham,
  2. Oliver Bartels, deployed medical director, Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit, Sierra Leone
  1. Correspondence to: A Johnston amcdjohnston{at}

As the Ebola epidemic in west Africa subsides, UK military medics Andrew Johnston and Oliver Bartels reflect on the hardships of working in Sierra Leone at the height of the outbreak and the inequities in treatment between African patients and those from Europe and America

Since our last update1 the epidemic of Ebola virus disease in west Africa seems to be slowing. Liberia was declared free of infection in May after reporting no cases for more than 42 days. Low numbers of cases persist in Sierra Leone, but Guinea has recently seen a worrying increase in cases.2

The British and Canadian military doctors and nurses at the Kerry Town treatment centre in Sierra Leone have so far treated 40 patients with Ebola virus infection, 21 of whom survived. One of the strongest factors in predicting survival seems to be starting treatment at an earlier stage of the disease, before organ failure has developed. Unfortunately, many of our patients presented some time after the onset of symptoms or were referred from other treatment centres late in the course of their illness with established organ failure. Whether interventions that we did not have available such as renal dialysis or mechanical ventilation would have improved their chances of survival is not certain. The small …

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