The Centers for Disease Control is awarding a grant to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia (ACCEL) to support sustained strengthening of infection prevention and control, laboratory and blood services in Liberian hospitals and clinics as they reopen following the Ebola crisis.
Throughout the outbreak, health care workers have been of the highest risk groups for contracting Ebola with over 360 cases and 170 fatalities reported in this high-risk group in Liberia alone.
As the number of EVD cases drops and regular health services resume, health care workers must remain vigilant to ensure that they are able to appropriately triage suspected EVD patients while protecting themselves from possible exposure and to provide adequate care for non-EVD illnesses.
This award will implement comprehensive Infection Prevention Control (IPC) training, as well as support monitoring for Health Care Workers across Liberia.
The project also focuses on strengthening public health laboratory capacity through the provision of the equipment, consumables, mentoring and training for laboratory technicians needed to strengthen laboratory testing capacity.
This strengthened capacity will ensure more rapid diagnosis for EVD and other common illnesses in hospital laboratories thus improving overall care. A major challenge has been differentiating the diagnosis of Ebola which has non-specific initial symptoms such fever, vomiting, diarrhea from more common everyday diseases such as malaria, viral illnesses, or complicated pregnancy.
PCR testing and other diagnostics within the hospital laboratory setting can play a crucial role in allowing patients with Ebola to be isolated for care more rapidly and to improve care for all patients.
Finally, this program will also support strengthening blood transfusion services for Liberia by providing training and direct technical assistance to improve blood collection and storage processes. These improvements will increase the availability of life saving transfusions for those in need.
According to the CDC, UMass/ACCEL is the only organization currently operating in Liberia with the technical expertise to execute the laboratory, transfusion and infection control activities required under this cooperative agreement.
UMass/ACCEL has been operating in Liberia for seven years. They have the knowledge of the country’s laws and customs as well as the relationships with key governmental stakeholders and partners to execute this work in the rapid fashion that is demanded when addressing an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak of this scale.
Currently CDC is working in collaboration with UMass/ACCEL by providing technical assistance on the activities they are conducting through a grant they received from the Paul Allen Foundation. This new cooperative agreement would allow CDC to conduct much need Ebola response activities with a trusted partner currently operating in Liberia addressing this epidemic.