SEBRING — Sebring plastic surgeon Kevin Strathy and his wife, Natu, are preparing to send another shipment of medical needs to Liberia to help in the West African country’s battle against the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Previously they have sent shipments of basic medical supplies to Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, but now they are working on an emergency basis to send personal protective equipment such as goggles, masks, gloves, gowns, boots and disinfectants to help protect people from Ebola.
“And, body bags,” are being shipped, said Natu, a registered nurse, who was born in Liberia where she has many family members.
Kevin said, “That’s really tragic. We have the information from ministry of health of Liberia what their needs are and the needs are just dramatic.”
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal illness in humans. Ebola outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.
The Strathys were in Monrovia for three weeks in June when the Ebola crisis started.
“We were there when the first cases of Ebola were diagnosed in the city of Monrovia,” Kevin said. “We were in the middle of doing surgery and we were instructed to stop because the work I was doing was more elective work, reconstructive surgery.”
The Strathys continued their efforts to distribute the supplies from a shipping container they had shipped to Monrovia and then returned to Sebring.
Not counting the other affected areas in West Africa, there have been between 300 and 400 deaths in Liberia alone, Kevin said, which is bigger than any previous Ebola outbreak. Overall there have been more than 1,000 deaths in the region.
“This is not under control; that is the disaster,” he said. “There are no proper public health initiatives over there to prevent more people from getting infected so we are probably going to see ... probably another 1,000 will people die.”
The estimated cost to control the virus is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“As an example, only recently has the Liberian national budget exceeded the budget for Highlands County [$122 million],” Kevin said. “We are talking about three impoverished nations — Guinea, Sierre Leone and Liberia.”
Natu said, in addition to supplies, the people of Liberia need to be educated about the virus and what they should do to protect themselves.
“We are also sending flyers, posters that we made up educating people on what causes the virus and the spread and what you can do to prevent it,” she said.
Commenting on their relief effort, Natu said, “People are very, very generous in Highlands County.”
Kevin said, “Our effort is not going to stop it; we are just trying to protect as many people as we can.”
Natu said, “Even though we are sending body bags, we are hoping they will use none or just a few of them.”
Kevin is a member of the HEARTT Foundation — Health Education and Relief Through Teaching.
The HEARTT Foundation was created by doctor James Sirleaf, son of Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf. The primary efforts of the foundation have been focused on teaching and education, but the current crisis has redirected the effort toward supplying protective equipment and disinfectants.
All donations for the effort are tax exempt and can be made to the HEARTT Foundation through the website: www.hearttfoundation.org or sent to HEARTT Foundation, c/o Kevin M. Strathy, MD, 805 U.S. Highway 27 S., Sebring, FL 33870.
Also, The Champion for Children Foundation is serving as a local collection point for donations. Donations can be sent to Champions for Children Foundation, P.O. Box 7125, Sebring, FL 33872-0103, and note “Liberia Medical Relief” on your donation.