Wednesday 21 February 2018

Brave Irish doctor flies out to tackle African Ebola outbreak

Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick (third from left) with MSF colleagues in Western Chad four years ago where he helped contain a cholera outbreak.
Dr Gabriel Fitzpatrick (third from left) with MSF colleagues in Western Chad four years ago where he helped contain a cholera outbreak.
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

Irish doctor Gabriel Fitzpatrick has flown out to Sierra Leone to help with the largest ever outbreak of Ebola.

The deadly virus in West African has claimed 670 lives – including one of Liberia's most high-profile doctors.

The Dublin-based father left for Sierra Leone last night on an open ticket.

"I'm going to Kaihlun, eastern Sierra Leone – the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak," he said.

"They're finishing a special quarantine hospital. I'll act as a doctor and also as a detective to find out where the infectious disease is coming from," explained Dr Fitzpatrick about his work. "There are 13 clusters of mini-outbreaks and there are now 1,200 confirmed cases," he added.

Dr Fitzpatrick will exercise extreme caution while in Sierra Leone.

"I'll wear a full body suit, wellingtons and a mask. It spreads via bodily fluids, any bodily fluid. It's not airborne," said the doctor. "I'd like to get back to my wife and child."

The Killester native, who is volunteering with Medicins San Frontiers (MSF), admitted that both he and his wife feared for his safety. "Oh absolutely, there's obviously fear involved, but the fear is reduced when you take precautions and wear the protective gear," he said.


"My wife worries but she understands," he added.

The doctor has previously worked in Chad responding to an outbreak of cholera.

The Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HSPC) said that there are currently no reported cases of Ebola here.

"The only risk for Irish people is if someone with Ebola takes a flight from West Africa into continental Europe and then on to Ireland within 21 days – we could potentially have a case then," explained Dr Fitzpatrick.

The current outbreak, which started in Guinea in February, is the most severe in history.

The Irish doctor said that the deadly virus is spread by bats which are hunted and eaten by some people in West Africa.

Dr Fitzpatrick hopes to be home by mid-September, but says he can't be certain.

"I have an open ticket. Ideally if things go right it would take two months to get the situation under control," he said.

To make a donation to Medicins San Frontiers call 1800 905 509 or visit Outbreak ignored by West: P25

Irish Independent

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