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TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Measures taken by Firestone officials at the company's rubber tree plantation in Ebola-ravaged Liberia may have limited the spread of the disease there and could prove effective elsewhere, researchers report.
The Firestone Natural Rubber Co. provides health services to about 80,000 employees, retirees, their families and residents of nearby densely populated communities.
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 23, there were 71 confirmed and suspected Ebola cases among those 80,000 people. That incidence rate of 0.09 percent was much lower than in the rest of the surrounding county (0.23 percent). Of the 57 patients in the Firestone district with laboratory-confirmed Ebola, 18 (32 percent) survived.
When the first Ebola case occurred, Firestone quickly established an incident management system, Ebola surveillance, immediate isolation of Ebola patients in a designated unit and enforcement of standard Ebola infection-control guidelines.
A number of elements implemented by Firestone were unique in West Africa. People with high-risk exposure to Ebola but no symptoms were offered voluntary quarantine where they received health education, personal protective equipment, sanitary supplies, meals, communications and prayer services.
Family members of suspected Ebola patients were provided with health education, personal protective equipment and waste disposal equipment.
Ebola patients were housed in a separate treatment unit, and patients without Ebola continued to receive regular care.
Firestone also created a "survivor reintegration program" to prepare communities for the return of recovered Ebola patients. It included community education to explain that survivors are free of Ebola and no longer contagious, and a welcome celebration attended by local health officials, company staff and clergy.
In addition, Firestone launched a public education campaign to increase awareness about Ebola and how to prevent it from spreading.
The researchers said certain aspects of Firestone's response to the Ebola outbreak may have minimized the spread of the deadly disease locally and might prove useful in other locations to limit transmission of the illness.
The study appears Oct. 21 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I went to see the Firestone hospital in Liberia at the end of August. I saw how careful and meticulous the staff is and how compassionately they care for Ebola patients and their families," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release. "This shows that it's possible to contain Ebola with meticulous attention to detail and care for patients."
-- Robert Preidt
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