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Global NGO Project HOPE Deploys Medical and Disaster Response Experts to Sierra Leone to Identify Ways to Improve Health System's Ability to treat Ebola Patients

MILLWOOD, VA., Oct. 3, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Responding to a request from the government of Sierra Leone, Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian assistance organization, today said it has sent six infectious disease and disaster response and recovery experts to the country to assess how to help combat the deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has no known cure and claimed over 3,300 lives in West Africa so far.

Team members include two infectious disease experts specialized in infection control from the global pharmaceutical company, Merck and Co., Inc, known as MSD outside the US and Canada, a registered infection control nurse from Massachusetts General Hospital and experts in disaster response and humanitarian assistance. The team has a great deal of experience working in Africa, with graduate experience in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, CDC, Public Health Service and the U.S. Army Medical Department.

The operation is sponsored by Merck in response to a personal letter of appeal to Project HOPE for assistance from President Ernest Bai Koroma and First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma of Sierra Leone.

"The team's goal is to conduct a rapid assessment on the ground by communicating with key health and emergency response officials in addition to surveying major health facilities, logistics capabilities and lines of communication. This will allow the team to identify key gaps in the country's ability to combat the Ebola outbreak, effectively treat patients and operate their overall health system," said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE.

Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are battling the world's largest and deadliest known outbreak of the Ebola virus, which is a highly contagious disease and kills up to 50 percent of those infected.

The experts will identify areas to potentially strengthen Sierra Leone's health system by equipping isolation treatment areas, emergency management and operations centers, education and training and more.

Project HOPE has built expertise in chronic health emergencies in 19 natural disasters and other crises worldwide over the past 10 years. Headquartered in Virginia, the NGO has an established logistical presence on the ground in Sierra Leone and has shipped donated medicines and supplies to the country and continues to work with its corporate partners to secure more donations of critically needed items.

The Project HOPE team deployed with appropriate levels of personal protective equipment and a portable isolation/evacuation chamber and is well-trained in operating in protective garments, as well as decontaminating infected materials. The team deployed with thermal imaging and a telemedicine unit.

The team does not intend to come in direct contact with Ebola infected patients nor handle body remains, infected garments or bodily fluids, and WHO and CDC Ebola protocols, the team will be monitored for disease symptoms and signs.

"Project HOPE is following WHO/CDC guidelines for re-entry into the United States for any staff or volunteers traveling from Ebola affected countries," said Dr. Howe.

The CDC recently confirmed the first travel-associated case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the U.S. and is taking precautions to prevent the spread of Ebola within the U.S.

Project HOPE has more than 300 staff and volunteers currently working in global health programs in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and a new program starting in Nigeria.

About Project HOPE

Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world's first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 30 countries. Follow us on Twitter at projecthopeorg. www.projecthope.org

CONTACT: Geraldine Carroll Tel. 540-257-3746 gcarroll@projecthope.org

Source: Project HOPE