Published: 15-10-2014 12:52 | Updated: 22-10-2014 10:31

Karolinska Institutet starts Ebola training for fieldworkers

The two-day course at Karolinska Institutet for Ebola fieldworkers has now started. It is an entirely new course, created in direct response to the acute shortage of aid workers in west Africa. The intense preparation work has progressed at an unprecedented pace.

Professor Hans Rosling is being disinfected in this demonstration at Karolinska Institutet.Course participants learn about containing the spread of the virus by adopting the proper procedures on the ground, training the practical aspects in a sports centre on the KI campus that was converted just yesterday to a medical camp with the help of industrial design and interior architect students from Stockholm’s University College of Arts, Crafts and Design.

“It’s important for the participants to get training in as realistic an environment as possible so that they can prepare themselves for the stress to which they’ll be exposed,” says Dr Taha Hirbod, infectious disease researcher who was quickly called in to be project manager at the newly established KI Ebola training centre. “So we’ve also set up fan heaters and work lamps to simulate the climate of the camps where the healthcare workers will be working.”

The camp where the participants are training has been set up along principles issued by Doctors Without Borders on how a medical centre for infectious diseases is to be organised.

“The focus is on how to handle the influx of patients,” says Dr Hirbod. “They also train important things like handling samples and putting on and taking off protective clothing, with the rubber boots, double gloves, breathing mask and visor.”

Another important aspect is prioritising the patients. It is essential to preventing the spread of Ebola that only infected people are brought into a camp. Since Ebola initially produces symptoms not unlike those of malaria and flu, sample-based triage is obligatory.

The week before the course started, Karolinska Institutet’s vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten urged all students and staff at KI to spread information about the course. And the response has been fantastic. The course which started yesterday was soon filled, mostly by medical personnel but there were also epidemiologists and people specialising in logistics and administration. The majority of the course participants are already scheduled to travel. Interest has also been shown by journalists wanting to report from west Africa.

“Priority is given to those who are already booked into a taskforce or who soon will be,” says Dr Hirbod.

The hope is that a total of 60 healthworkers will be trained this month.

“We’ll then do an evaluation and perhaps arrange more courses,” she adds.

The course is organised by the Centre for Research of Healthcare in Disasters at KI in association with the National Board of Health and Welfare, Doctors without Borders, the Public Health Agency of Sweden, and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). The senior teachers are nurse Anneli Eriksson and surgeon Johan von Schreeb, both recently returned from west Africa. Other experts have been engaged for different parts of the course to ensure maximum relevance.

Text: Jenny Ryltenius

Photo: Gunnar Ask