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Concept: Eastern Province, Sierra Leone


Poor quality housing is an infringement on the rights of all humans to a standard of living adequate for health. Among the many vulnerabilities of those without adequate shelter is the risk of disease spread by rodents and other pests. One such disease is Lassa fever, an acute and sometimes severe viral hemorrhagic illness endemic in West Africa. Lassa virus is maintained in the rodent Mastomys natalensis, commonly known as the “multimammate rat,” which frequently invades the domestic environment, putting humans at risk of Lassa fever. The highest reported incidence of Lassa fever in the world is consistently in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone, a region that was at the center of Sierra Leone’s civil war in which tens of thousands of lives were lost and hundreds of thousands of dwellings destroyed. Despite the end of the war in 2002, most of Kenema’s population still lives in inadequate housing that puts them at risk of rodent invasion and Lassa fever. Furthermore, despite years of health education and village hygiene campaigns, the incidence of Lassa fever in Kenema District appears to be increasing. We focus on Lassa fever as a matter of human rights, proposing a strategy to improve housing quality, and discuss how housing equity has the potential to improve health equity and ultimately economic productivity in Sierra Leone. The manuscript is designed to spur discussion and action towards provision of housing and prevention of disease in one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Sierra Leone, Freetown, Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Kenema District


During December 2014-February 2015, an Ebola outbreak in a village in Kono district, Sierra Leone, began following unsafe funeral practices after the death of a person later confirmed to be infected with Ebola virus. In response, disease surveillance officers and community health workers, in collaboration with local leadership and international partners, conducted 1 day of active surveillance and health education for all households in the village followed by ongoing outreach. This study investigated the impact of these interventions on the outbreak.

Concepts: Ebola, Sierra Leone, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, Kono District, Samuel Sam-Sumana, Kono people, Johnny Paul Koroma


At 6 a.m., our medical team arrives at the Ebola case-management center in the Kailahun district of Sierra Leone to take blood samples. At our 80-bed center here near the borders of Liberia and Guinea, 8 new patients were admitted yesterday, 9 need to have a repeat test 72 hours after their symptoms began, and some we hope to discharge today: at least 18 blood samples to obtain. The center currently houses 64 patients in all, 4 of them children less than 5 years of age. We have already seen 2 patients die today. I have been here for 7 . . .

Concepts: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Mende people, Kailahun District, Kailahun


Little is understood of Ebola virus disease (EVD) transmission dynamics and community compliance with control measures over time. Understanding these interactions is essential if interventions are to be effective in future outbreaks. We conducted a mixed-methods study to explore these factors in a rural village that experienced sustained EVD transmission in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone.

Concepts: Viral hemorrhagic fever, Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Mende people, Kailahun District, Kailahun, Tom Nyuma


 Ebola virus disease (EVD) in health workers (HWs) has been a major challenge during the 2014-15 outbreak. We examined factors associated with Ebola virus exposure and mortality in HWs in Kenema District, Sierra Leone.

Concepts: Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Malaise, Sierra Leone, Freetown, Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Kenema District


The scale and geographical distribution of the current outbreak in West Africa raised doubts as to the effectiveness of established methods of control. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was first detected in Sierra Leone in May 2014 in Kailahun district. Despite high case numbers elsewhere in the country, transmission was eliminated in the district by December 2014. We describe interventions underpinning successful EVD control in Kailahun and implications for EVD control in other areas.

Concepts: West Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Mende people, Kailahun District, Kailahun, Tom Nyuma


This paper describes patient characteristics, including Ebola viral load, associated with mortality in an MSF Ebola case management centre. Out of 780 admissions between June and October 2014, 525 (67%) were positive for Ebola with a known outcome. The crude mortality rate was 51% (270/525). Ebola viral load (whole blood sample) data was available on 76% (397/525) of patients. Univariate analysis indicated viral load at admission, age, symptom duration prior to admission and distance travelled to the CMC were associated with mortality (p value<0.05). The multivariable model predicted mortality in those with a viral load at admission greater than 10 million copies per millilitre (p value<0.05, Odds Ratio>10), aged 50 years or more (p value=0.08, Odds Ratio=2) and symptom duration prior to admission less than 5 days (p value=0.14). The presence of confusion, diarrhoea and conjunctivitis were significantly higher (p value<0.05) in Ebola patients who died. These findings highlight the importance viral load at admission has on mortality outcomes and could be used to cohort cases with viral loads greater than 10 million copies into dedicated wards with more intensive medical support to further reduce mortality.

Concepts: Death, Mortality rate, Actuarial science, Sierra Leone, Compensation law of mortality, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Kailahun District, Kailahun


Studies have shown that people suffering from food insecurity are at higher risk for infectious and noncommunicable diseases and have poorer health outcomes. No study, however, has examined the association between food insecurity and outcomes related to Ebola virus disease (EVD). We conducted a cross-sectional study in two Ebola-affected communities in Kono district, Sierra Leone, from November 2015 to September 2016. We enrolled persons who were determined to have been exposed to Ebola virus. We assessed the association of food insecurity, using an adapted version of the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale, a nine-item scale well validated across Africa, with having been diagnosed with EVD and having died of EVD, using logistic regression models with cluster-adjusted standard errors. We interviewed 326 persons who were exposed to Ebola virus; 61 (19%) were diagnosed with EVD and 45/61 (74%) died. We found high levels (87%) of food insecurity, but there was no association between food insecurity and having been diagnosed with EVD. Among EVD cases, those who were food insecure had 18.3 times the adjusted odds of death than those who were food secure (P= 0.03). This is the first study to demonstrate a potential relationship between food insecurity and having died of EVD, although larger prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Concepts: Food security, Sierra Leone, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Districts of Sierra Leone, Kono District, Samuel Sam-Sumana, Kono people, Johnny Paul Koroma


Contact tracing in an Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak is the process of identifying individuals who may have been exposed to infected persons with the virus, followed by monitoring for 21 days (the maximum incubation period) from the date of the most recent exposure. The goal is to achieve early detection and isolation of any new cases in order to prevent further transmission. We performed a retrospective data analysis of 261 probable and confirmed EVD cases in the national EVD database and 2525 contacts in the Contact Line Lists in Kenema district, Sierra Leone between 27 April and 4 September 2014 to assess the performance of contact tracing during the initial stage of the outbreak. The completion rate of the 21-day monitoring period was 89% among the 2525 contacts. However, only 44% of the EVD cases had contacts registered in the Contact Line List and 6% of probable or confirmed cases had previously been identified as contacts. Touching the body fluids of the case and having direct physical contact with the body of the case conferred a 9- and 20-fold increased risk of EVD status, respectively. Our findings indicate that incompleteness of contact tracing led to considerable unmonitored transmission in the early months of the epidemic. To improve the performance of early outbreak contact tracing in resource poor settings, our results suggest the need for prioritized contact tracing after careful risk assessment and better alignment of Contact Line Listing with case ascertainment and investigation.This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Risk, Ebola, Incubation period, Sierra Leone, Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Kenema District


Health care workers (HCWs) are at increased risk for infection in outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (Ebola). To characterize Ebola in HCWs in Sierra Leone and guide prevention efforts, surveillance data from the national Viral Hemorrhagic Fever database were analyzed. In addition, site visits and interviews with HCWs and health facility administrators were conducted. As of October 31, 2014, a total of 199 (5.2%) of the total of 3,854 laboratory-confirmed Ebola cases reported from Sierra Leone were in HCWs, representing a much higher estimated cumulative incidence of confirmed Ebola in HCWs than in non-HCWs, based on national data on the number of HCW. The peak number of confirmed Ebola cases in HCWs was reported in August (65 cases), and the highest number and percentage of confirmed Ebola cases in HCWs was in Kenema District (65 cases, 12.9% of cases in Kenema), mostly from Kenema General Hospital. Confirmed Ebola cases in HCWs continued to be reported through October and were from 12 of 14 districts in Sierra Leone. A broad range of challenges were reported in implementing infection prevention and control measures. In response, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and partners are developing standard operating procedures for multiple aspects of infection prevention, including patient isolation and safe burials; recruiting and training staff in infection prevention and control; procuring needed commodities and equipment, including personal protective equipment and vehicles for safe transport of Ebola patients and corpses; renovating and constructing Ebola care facilities designed to reduce risk for nosocomial transmission; monitoring and evaluating infection prevention and control practices; and investigating new cases of Ebola in HCWs as sentinel public health events to identify and address ongoing prevention failures.

Concepts: Health care, Public health, Ebola, Marburg virus, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Sierra Leone, Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone