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Ebola virus: British aid worker’s diary reveals horror as SIX nurses die from killer bug

Posted 08/03/2014 12:23 pm by

Aid worker: Brit Cokie Van der Velde shares her experiences as the Ebola outbreak threat looms


From overflowing morgues to corpses being pushed around in wheelbarrows, a British aid worker today reveals the horror she has seen battling to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa .


Sanitation expert Cokie van der Velde, 54, spent last week helping with charity Medecins Sans Frontieres at a treatment centre in Liberian capital Monrovia and a hospital isolation ward three hours away.


And the grandmother revealed that six of the nurses she worked with have died from the virus.


Yesterday Cokie, of Whixley, North Yorkshire, said: “It is heartbreaking to see such brave people perishing at the hands of this awful disease.”


The recent outbreak, the largest recorded in history, began in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 700 people.


The World Health Organisation said that 60 medics had so far died in West Africa, falling ill as they bravely battled to save other people.



Meanwhile, American aid workers Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were infected as they helped patients in Liberia, were last night being flown home for treatment.


Despite the risks, Cokie plans to return to the region next month. Here, we share her experiences of the terrible suffering engulfing West Africa…


Ebola death map: This picture demonstrates the amount of recorded cases in West Africa




Day 1


It’s 5.30am and I’m the first out of bed. It’s a half-hour drive to the Ebola ­treatment centre. I arrive at 7.30am and change into scrubs and rubber boots in the “low-risk zone”.


I need to put on full protective gear. I pull on a pair of examination gloves, and then a yellow suit. It goes up to my neck and down to my ankles. Already I’m starting to sweat.


It’s very humid and hot. Next is the mask, the hood, and then an enormous plastic apron. I fumble with surgical gloves, then thick rubber household gloves. Finally I put on my goggles.


Before I go in the high-risk zone, a staff member checks to make sure not one millimetre of skin is showing.


I start by emptying buckets of faeces and vomit. Some people have terrible diarrhoea or are bleeding, so there’s a lot of cleaning. I make sure they all have water – most are so weak, they can’t even unscrew the lid of a plastic bottle; some can barely speak.


Soiled sheets go in bins, which are taken to the burning pits – once a day we burn the waste. Every day there are dead bodies, every day the number is increasing. When somebody dies, we put their belongings in bags and burn them, with the mattress cover and sheet.



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