LSTM’s Dr Tim O’Dempsey made a reappearance at LSTM this week speaking at a seminar about viral haemorrhagic fevers with an emphasis on Ebola. The session was organised as part of the Diploma of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (DTM&H) course and coincided with the first anniversary of WHO officially declaring an outbreak in West Africa mainly affecting Sierra Leone; Guinea and Liberia. He is currently seconded to the World Health Organization (WHO) as Mission Leader for WHO’s Clinical Consultancy Mission which manages the current outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone.
Dr O’Dempsey gave an update from the field by charting the movement of EVD in Sierra Leone. He explained, as the numbers of new confirmed cases have started to fall, that the country was in the second phase of managing EVD. But with cases still to level out in neighbouring Guinea, there is still a threat to the region. “What needs to be examined is the collateral damage as a result of Ebola”, Dr O’Dempsey said. “Health services in Sierra Leone have been paralysed by Ebola, with under 5 mortality alone rising by 20%. When you look at the burden of death and disease, more people will have died as a result of the Ebola outbreak than will have died of Ebola itself.”
Dr O’Dempsey is one of several LSTM staff members who have been on the frontline during this outbreak, along with Dr Derek Sloan, research fellow Dr Tom Fletcher and Dr Hannah Ryan as well as a number of LSTM alumni from the DTM&H and humanitarian courses.
The seminar was open to students on the course as well as staff members and invited guests from external partner organisations.
DTM&H course director Dr Clare van Halsema said: “The seminar was a success and I think that the students gained a great deal from the practical experience of those who have worked in the field with Ebola and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. LSTM alumni have a long history of working in humanitarian settings and a day such as this is invaluable in preparing the students to contribute positively in Ebola-affected countries.”
Speakers were experts working in the field of viral haemorrhagic fevers, particularly relating to Ebola, representing the University Hospitals of South Manchester; Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; The Royal Free Hospital in London; WHO; the University of Manchester and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital and LSTM itself. Together they have extensive experience working with Ebola in the UK and affected countries during the current and previous outbreaks.