Firestone sets example for how to tackle Ebola

Sometimes good examples of innovation come from unexpected places, and in terms of managing Ebola, Firestone Liberia, Inc., an affiliate of Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC, has done just that. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) issued on Oct. 21, Firestone Liberia, Inc. has put together an effective infrastructure to manage the outbreak […]

Sometimes good examples of innovation come from unexpected places, and in terms of managing Ebola, Firestone Liberia, Inc., an affiliate of Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC, has done just that.

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) issued on Oct. 21, Firestone Liberia, Inc. has put together an effective infrastructure to manage the outbreak in a particular area, and the U.S. might be able to learn a little something from their example.

A little background info: Firestone Natural Rubber Company, LLC is a division of Bridgestone Americas, Inc, and has been in operation as a rubber tree plantation since 1926, occupying 185 square miles in Margibi County, Liberia.There are 121 communities within the Firestone district where employees and their families live. About 80,000 people are covered by Firestone health services in this area – people like employees, retirees, dependents and other residence. Out of these people, on average the facilities have 5,500 patients visits a month.

Within this group, 78 people contracted Ebola (a lower rate than the county as a whole) and 55 died, according to Don Darden, a spokesman for Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone. A Firestone employee’s wife was the first to contract the virus in March, and that was due to a visit to Lofa county (the epicenter of the outbreak) where she cared for an infected family member. She did die, but no one contracted the disease from her. That’s because once she returned to Margibi County, Firestone didn’t hesitate to quickly set up a sound system for tackling the potential spread.

“I went to see the Firestone hospital in Liberia at the end of August. I saw how careful and meticulous the staff is and how compassionately they care for Ebola patients and their families,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said. “This shows that it’s possible to contain Ebola with meticulous attention to detail and care for patients.”

So what is the Firestone facility doing that we could potential replicate?

– Asymptomatic contacts with high-risk exposure were offered voluntary quarantine in dedicated facilities where they received health education, personal protective equipment, sanitary supplies, and essentials such as meals, communications, and prayer services.

– Integration of health education and distribution of personal protective equipment and waste disposal equipment to family members of suspected Ebola patients.

– Screening protocols permitted the hospital to isolate and care for Ebola patients in a separate, dedicated Ebola treatment unit while care for non-Ebola patients continued.

– A survivor reintegration program prepared communities for the return of recovered Ebola patients. The program consisted of community education, explaining that the survivor was Ebola free and no longer contagious, and a welcome celebration attended by local health officials, Firestone staff, and clergy. The celebrations were broadcast on radio.

– A robust risk communications and social mobilization campaign to boost community awareness of Ebola and how to prevent transmission.

In a time of crisis, it’s important for the public and our officials to be educated. Examples of strategies that have helped to manage the outbreak in Liberia can only help strategic efforts in other areas.

[Firestone photo from flickr user Lars Hammar]

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