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Cairns nurse calls for Ebola response

Australian Red Cross
Photo: Ebola in West Africa. Australian Red Cross image.
The Queensland nurse at the centre of the recent Ebola scare has urged other medical professionals to join the health frontline working to combat the deadly virus in West Africa.

The call comes as three other nurses from across Australia prepare to join the Australian Red Cross as aid workers, providing medical care and working to halt the spread of the outbreak.

A nurse from New South Wales, another from southern Queensland and a nurse from Western Australia will this week join Australian Red Cross aid worker and nurse Amanda McClelland, who is heading up the international Red Cross response.

Sue Ellen Kovack has left Cairns Hospital and is in home quarantine after second tests came back negative for Ebola virus.

The Australian Red Cross aid worker released a statement after she was hospitalised with a slightly elevated temperature following a month spent treating patients in Sierra Leone.

“The international community needs to do so much more right now to stop Ebola in its tracks, before it really gets right out of control,” she said.

“I’m sending a message to my fellow medical professionals who are thinking about heading over to treat the sick and work at bringing Ebola under control - please, please do it.

“I would also like to remind everyone that it costs money to send health workers and help to resource the Ebola response.

“Please consider donating to the Red Cross Ebola Outbreak Appeal.”

Ms Kovack said it was “a huge relief” to be cleared of Ebola.

“It confirms that our protection and safety measures are working well,” she said.

The nurse also thanked people for their support.

“The outpouring of support from my family, friends and so many Australians and others around the world has been overwhelming and really quite emotional for me,” she said.

“The past few days have been a worrying and taxing time and it has meant I’ve not had much time to fully process the challenges I had in West Africa, treating people sick with Ebola, seeing people die and helping to control this dreadful virus.

“I’d like to bring the focus back to the tens of thousands of people directly affected by Ebola in West Africa - 4000 have lost their lives and over 8400 have been infected in total.

“That means more than 40,000 people have family members who have either died or become infected,” she said.

“It has been so inspiring and it has really kept me going in the past few days to know there’s growing public support for action to help people affected by Ebola in West Africa.”

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) federal secretary Lee Thomas said Ms Kovack doesn’t want her own experience to deter others from working to fight the virus.

“We are reiterating that the risk of contracting Ebola is extremely low,” she said.

“To quote the Queensland Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeannette Young: ‘While Ebola is a very serious disease, it is not highly contagious and cannot be caught through coughing or sneezing, and a person is not infectious until they are unwell with the disease’.”

The ANMF has urged nurses and midwives along with the wider community to donate to the Red Cross Ebola Outbreak Appeal.

Ms Thomas said frontline health workers still need personal protective equipment and other significant resources to help them as they treat Ebola victims in West Africa.

“We must work together to treat the victims of the disease, ensure the protection of health care workers on the ground and importantly, stop the disease from spreading even further across countries in West Africa.”
Donations can be made to the Australian Red Cross Ebola Outbreak 2014 Appeal or by calling 1800 811 700.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords