Health Team

UNC physician helps Ebola victims in Guinea

Posted June 25, 2014

Dr. Billy Fischer is a critical care physician and pulmonary disease specialist with UNC Hospitals.

The World Health Organization requested his expertise in Geneva to plan strategies to fight major outbreaks of the flu in China, the MERS virus in the Middle East and Ebola in West Africa.

WHO officials asked Fischer to serve in the midst of the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever in Guinea, which borders Sierra Leone and Liberia. It’s an area where 330 people reportedly died from Ebola last week.

“That was a different conversation with my wife than telling her I was going to Geneva to work on respiratory viruses,” Fischer said.

Health care workers wear isolation gowns that cover every inch of their body.

Ebola spreads by contact with body fluids of an infected person. The virus, which has no cure, causes vomiting, diarrhea, internal bleeding and organ failure.

Medical teams can offer supportive care, which can save some lives.

“The thought is that if we can improve that mortality rate, we can improve trust among the affected community in health care providers, and ultimately be able to get people to present earlier in their course of illness,” Fischer said.

While there is concern that Ebola will spread, Fischer said places such as the United States have more effective monitoring and other controls over people traveling from other countries.

Meanwhile, the countries experiencing the outbreak – and the health care workers who are trying to help – need support. The World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross are all accepting donations.


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