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Ebola Scare in Africa Brings Concern to Rochester

Created: 03/26/2014 6:46 PM KAALtv.com
By: Jenna Lohse

More than 60 people have now died from an outbreak of the rare Ebola Virus in Western Africa. It's in the country of Guinea, where a Rochester church has also been doing mission work. The recent Ebola outbreak has many worried about the physicians working in the area.

"Health is so essential to helping a country overcome poverty,” said Dr. Stephen Merry, a family physician at Mayo Clinic. With his background in global health, Dr. Merry quickly jumped on board a project supported by Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester. Seven years ago, Autumn Ridge built Compassion Evangelical Hospital in the African nation of Guinea, where Dr. Merry visited just this past December

"We're quite invested, many hundreds of dollars of Rochester money going to Guinea,” said Dr. Merry.

Hospital physicians often treat children dying from pneumonia and other preventable diseases. But the recent outbreak of a deadly Ebola virus raises concern.

"This disease which comes on quickly and the case fatality rates are extraordinarily high,” said Dr. Merry.

This is video from an outbreak in Uganda. Ebola has no vaccine or cure, averaging 75% fatality rates in those infected. Which has Dr. Merry concerned for those at Compassion Evangelical Hospital.

"It gives us grave concern, it's a dangerous epidemic or outbreak rather in this one little area that could potentially cause problems for hospital workers who are our friends,” said Dr. Merry.

Compassion Evangelical Hospital is in the center of Guinea, and the active outbreak area is in the south eastern corner. Dr. Merry says it's expected that some sick patients may travel, but they have yet to see any Ebola cases at their hospital.

Still, Ebola can be treatable.

"It's kidney failure or organ failure, that's the cause of death, that's treatable with supportive care, ivy and fluids to get the function back in the kidneys."

So he says having that supportive care is crucial.

"This demonstrates exactly the need, it's one outbreak of dozens of diseases that plague the people who are living in poverty and it's exactly the reason we are there,” said Dr. Merry.

Dr. Merry says the church has been in constant contact with hospital workers in Guinea to make sure they're safe.

The good news, they have plenty of supplies. Rochester Medical Relief Missions Warehouse ships donated goods like gowns and masks to prevent the virus from spreading.