When Dr Roger Alcock heard an appeal for British medics to head to Africa and help treat Ebola patients. he didn’t hesitate to put his name forward.
Dr Alcock, a consultant in emergency medicine at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, volunteered to be part of a medical team and spent five weeks in Sierra Leone treating victims of the humanitarian and medical disaster.
He is now back in the A&E ward following a three week isolation. Dr Alcock said: “As soon as I heard UK Med were looking for volunteers I was keen to apply. I discussed it with my friends, family and colleagues and everyone was very supportive of my decision.
“I knew there would be a risk I could contract Ebola, but I also knew that if I stuck to protocol, the risk would be very small.”
When he arrived in November, the consultant was struck by the strict regime in place to prevent the spread of Ebola, which has killed over 8000 people since the outbreak began last year.
The mortality rate was at 70-90 per cent but with treatment and precautions, the epidemic is under control and survival rates at 60 per cent.
Dr Alcock continued: “There are signs everywhere reminding people not to have any bodily contact and there are soap and chlorine dispensers throughout the country.
“The patients were treated in specially-designed tents and we had to wear hazmat suits and had our temperature taken constantly – around 40 times a day – as it’s one of the first signs of Ebola.”
The risks to the medical team were made clear when another member of the team, nurse Pauline Cafferkey from Glasgow, contracted the virus after returning home.
“It can take up to 21 days for the symptoms to show, so I think the whole medical team had an anxious three weeks once we got home. I was delighted to hear Pauline has made a full recovery.”
Dr Alcock said he learned new skills with the trip, on how to deal with an epidemic.
“There could be a time Britain suffers an outbreak, maybe not of Ebola, but of Swine Flu or MERS and the team has had to training on how to tackle it.
“If something like that happened in the UK, we would also need medics from around the world to help, so I was happy to volunteer my services.”