The deadliest recorded Ebola outbreak in history is getting worse, and for the first time, confirmed cases of the disease surfaced last week at reportedly the only fully functioning hospital in Sierra Leone.
On Aug. 21, a mother and her twin 3-year-old daughters exhibiting Ebola symptoms were admitted to the Emergency Surgical Center, part of the worldwide nonprofit organization Emergency USA, located near the outskirts of Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown. The hospital confirmed the trio had contracted Ebola on Sunday.
"It is a really tense situation," said Eric Talbert, executive director of Emergency USA, which has its U.S. operation based in San Francisco. "From a public-health standpoint, this thing is a nightmare."
On Wednesday, the hospital also admitted a 9-year-old boy suffering from Ebola flu-like symptoms. Talbert said the hospital was still awaiting his test results as of Thursday.
Also as of Thursday, Sierra Leone had seen 935 cases of Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, at least 29 of which came from Freetown. If the boy's diagnosis is confirmed, he will become the 13th Ebola patient to have emerged from the western part of Freetown, an area that had not seen Ebola until this month -- which is further evidence the disease is still spreading, Talbert said.
UC San Francisco clinician Dan Kelly, who is teaching infection-control training to health care workers in Sierra Leone, said Thursday the nation remains crippled by fear of Ebola. Kelly has visited the Emergency Surgical Center during his stay in Sierra Leone.
In an isolation ward in Freetown on Thursday, Kelly -- dressed in a protective space suit that he says looks "scary" to patients -- said he spoke with a man in his early 20s suspected to have Ebola. When Kelly left the isolation room, he could hear the man pounding on the door, trying to leave.
"It's just so sad," Kelly said. "No one wants to be having stigmatized as having Ebola. Everyone sees [isolation wards] as a place they go to die."
Earlier this week while in the Kono District, Kelly said four suspected Ebola patients arrived at a clinic where he was working. When doctors tried to isolate the patients, they ran away.
However, Kelly did point out a recent development in the devastated country. A new diagnostic laboratory was set up this week in Freetown, allowing potential Ebola samples to be turned around within the same day.
Kelly plans to leave Sierra Leone for San Francisco on Sept. 5. He is using Twitter to share his experiences abroad, under the handle @DanKelly_MD.