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Concept: Port Loko

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The Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic that hit West Africa in 2013 was the worst outbreak of EVD in recorded history. While much has been published regarding the international and national-level EVD responses, there is a dearth of literature on district-level coordination and operational structures, successes, and failures. This article seeks to understand how the EVD response unfolded at the district level, namely the challenges to operationalizing EVD surveillance over the course of the outbreak in Port Loko and Kambia districts of Sierra Leone. We present here GOAL Global’s understanding of the fundamental challenges to case investigation operations during the EVD response, including environmental and infrastructural, sociocultural, and political and organizational challenges, with insight complemented by a survey of 42 case investigators. Major challenges included deficiencies in transportation and communication resources, low morale and fatigue among case investigators, mismanagement of data, mistrust among communities, and leadership challenges. Without addressing these operational challenges, technical surveillance solutions are difficult to implement and hold limited relevance, due to the poor quality and quantity of data being collected. The low prioritization of operational needs came at a high cost. To mediate this, GOAL addressed these operational challenges by acquiring critical transportation and communication resources to facilitate case investigation, including vehicles, boats, fuel, drivers, phones, and closed user groups; addressing fatigue and low morale by hiring more case investigators, making timely payments, arranging for time off, and providing meals and personal protective equipment; improving data tracking efforts through standard operating procedures, training, and mentorship to build higher-quality case histories and make it easier to access information; strengthening trust in communities by ensuring familiarity and consistency of case investigators; and improving operational leadership challenges through meetings and regular coordination, establishing an active surveillance strategy in Port Loko, and conducting an after-action review. Resolving or addressing these challenges was of primary importance, and requisite for the implementation of technical epidemiological complements to EVD case investigation.

Concepts: Ebola, Malaise, Sierra Leone, Temne people, Port Loko, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Sorie Ibrahim Koroma, Port Loko District

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Case-fatality rates in Ebola treatment centers (ETCs) varied widely during the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. We assessed the influence of referral pathway on ETC case-fatality rates with a retrospective cohort of 126 patients treated at the Mathaska ETC in Port Loko, Sierra Leone. The patients consisted of persons who had confirmed EVD when transferred to the ETC or who had been diagnosed onsite. The case-fatality rate for transferred patients was 46% versus 67% for patients diagnosed onsite (p = 0.02). The difference was mediated by Ebola viral load at diagnosis, suggesting a survival selection bias. Comparisons of case-fatality rates across ETCs and clinical management strategies should account for potential survival selection bias.

Concepts: Microbiology, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Temne people, Port Loko, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Sorie Ibrahim Koroma

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Understanding the growth and spatial expansion of (re)emerging infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola and avian influenza, is critical for the effective planning of control measures; however, such efforts are often compromised by data insufficiencies and observational errors. Here, we develop a spatial-temporal inference methodology using a modified network model in conjunction with the ensemble adjustment Kalman filter, a Bayesian inference method equipped to handle observational errors. The combined method is capable of revealing the spatial-temporal progression of infectious disease, while requiring only limited, readily compiled data. We use this method to reconstruct the transmission network of the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone and identify source and sink regions. Our inference suggests that, in Sierra Leone, transmission within the network introduced Ebola to neighbouring districts and initiated self-sustaining local epidemics; two of the more populous and connected districts, Kenema and Port Loko, facilitated two independent transmission pathways. Epidemic intensity differed by district, was highly correlated with population size (r = 0.76, p = 0.0015) and a critical window of opportunity for containing local Ebola epidemics at the source (ca one month) existed. This novel methodology can be used to help identify and contain the spatial expansion of future (re)emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Influenza, Pandemic, Sierra Leone, Temne people, Port Loko, Northern Province, Sierra Leone

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Despite over 28,000 reported cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the 2013-16 outbreak in West Africa, we are only beginning to trace the complex biosocial processes that have promoted its spread. Important questions remain, including the effects on survivors of clinical sequelae, loss of family and livelihood, and other psychological and social trauma. Another poorly understood question is what effect social protection and job creation programs have had on survivors' wellbeing. Several clinical and social protection programs have been developed to respond to the needs of EVD survivors; however, little in the way of impact evaluation has taken place. We enrolled 200 randomly selected EVD survivors from Port Loko, Kenema, and Kailahun districts in Sierra Leone and stratified them based on the amount of instrumental social protection received post-discharge from an Ebola Treatment Unit. We then conducted a survey and in-depth interviews to assess participants' wellbeing and food security. Social protection categories II-IV (moderate to extensive) were each significantly associated with ∼15-22% higher wellbeing scores compared to minimal social protection (p < 0.001). Only social protection category IV (extensive) was significantly associated with being food secure (adjusted odds ratio 6.11; 95% confidence interval, 2.85-13.10) when compared to minimal social protection. Qualitative themes included having a sense of purpose during the crisis (work and fellowship helped survivors cope); using cash transfers to invest in business; the value of literacy and life-skills classes; loss of breadwinners (survivors with jobs were able to take over that role); and combating the consequences of stigma. We conclude that, for EVD survivors, short-term social protection during the vulnerable period post-discharge can pay dividends two years later. Based on the empiric evidence presented, we discuss how terms such as "outbreak" and "epidemic" do symbolic violence by creating the illusion that social suffering ends when transmission of a pathogen ceases.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Sierra Leone, Port Loko

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As part of the UK response to the 2013-2016 Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa, Public Health England (PHE) were tasked with establishing three field Ebola virus (EBOV) diagnostic laboratories in Sierra Leone by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). These provided diagnostic support to the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) facilities located in Kerry Town, Makeni and Port Loko. The Novel and Dangerous Pathogens (NADP) Training group at PHE, Porton Down, designed and implemented a pre-deployment Ebola diagnostic laboratory training programme for UK volunteer scientists being deployed to the PHE EVD laboratories. Here, we describe the training, workflow and capabilities of these field laboratories for use in response to disease epidemics and in epidemiological surveillance. We discuss the training outcomes, the laboratory outputs, lessons learned and the legacy value of the support provided. We hope this information will assist in the recruitment and training of staff for future responses and in the design and implementation of rapid deployment diagnostic field laboratories for future outbreaks of high consequence pathogens.This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nigeria, West Africa, Liberia, Atlantic slave trade, Sierra Leone, Port Loko, Northern Province, Sierra Leone

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A GIRL of nine and a man of 70, Fifi and Yaya (not their real names), were allocated to the Ebola treatment centre together, having been transferred from the holding centre in Port Loko. Fifi was a stretcher case but Yaya could walk unaided.

Concepts: Port Loko

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BACKGROUND: Since 2007 Sierra Leone has conducted mass drug administration (MDA) for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) implemented by unpaid community health volunteers (CHVs). Other health campaigns such as Mother and Child Health Weeks (MCHW) pay for services to be implemented at community level and these persons are then known as community health workers (CHWs). In 2010, the LF MDA in the 12 districts of the Southern, Northern and Eastern Provinces un-expectantly coincided with universal distribution of Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLITNs) during the MCHW. In-process monitoring of LF MDA was performed to ensure effective coverage was attained in hard to reach sites (HTR) in both urban and rural locations where vulnerable populations reside. METHODS: Independent monitors interviewed individuals eligible for LF MDA and tallied those who recalled having taken ivermectin and albendazole, calculated program coverage and reported results daily by phone. Monitoring of coverage in HTR sites in the 4 most rapidly urbanizing towns was performed after 4 weeks of LF MDA and again after 8 weeks throughout all 12 districts. End process monitoring was performed in randomly selected HTR sites not previously sampled throughout all 12 districts and compared to coverage calculated from the pre-MDA census and reported treatments. RESULTS: Only one town had reached effective program coverage (>=80%) after 4 weeks following which CHWs were recruited for LF MDA in all district headquarter towns. After 8 weeks only 4 of 12 districts had reached effective coverage so LF MDA was extended for a further month in all districts. By 12 weeks effective program coverage had been reached in all districts except Port Loko and there was no significant difference between those interviewed in communities versus households or by sex. Effective epidemiological coverage (>=65%) was reported in all districts and overall was significantly higher in males versus females. CONCLUSIONS: The challenges to LF MDA included the late delivery in country of ivermectin, the availability and motivation of unpaid CHVs, concurrent LLITN distribution and the MCHW, remuneration for CHWs, rapid urbanization and employment seeking population migrations. ‘In process’ monitoring ensured modifications of LF MDA were made in a timely manner to ensure effective coverage was finally attained even in HTR locations.

Concepts: Malaria, Sierra Leone, Temne people, GlaxoSmithKline, Port Loko, Northern Province, Sierra Leone, Sorie Ibrahim Koroma, Port Loko District