Send a New Year message to MSF doctor Precious Mudama
At the start of 2021, MSF doctor Precious Mudama is working as a research medical doctor in Abakaliki, southeast Nigeria. We asked Precious what it's like to work for MSF in a year gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and how he intended to spend Christmas.
Can you tell us more about where are you working with MSF?
I work in the Integrated Lassa Fever Project in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state, Nigeria. I am a research medical doctor and also a Lassa fever, yellow fever, and now COVID-19 case manager with MSF.
Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever. While most people who have the virus don’t have any symptoms, for about 20 percent it can be much more serious, particularly for pregnant women.
About 15 percent of patients hospitalised with Lassa go on to die from the disease and its complications.
My job involves working with the team to reduce the number of people who become infected with the disease, and to improve the outcomes for people who test positive for it.
Our project is the only centre for management of Lassa fever in the region.
It serves all residents in Ebonyi state, and surrounding south-eastern states of Nigeria, irrespective of race, gender, ethno-religious and socio-political inclinations.
Why is it important that your work continues during the pandemic?
Lassa fever hasn’t gone away because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the pandemic has made some healthcare workers more vulnerable to Lassa: staff are under strain and important supplies like PPE are in high demand. Sometimes it’s difficult to get to people who need them because of lockdown restrictions.
So not only have we been continuing our work to raise awareness in the community, train staff and ensure high quality care for Lassa fever, we’ve also been using our experience of managing infectious diseases in this region to help combat COVID-19 too.
For example, we’ve created harmonised triage forms, to help healthcare staff faced with the dilemma of deciding whether someone might have Lassa or COVID-19. Getting this right is important, as the early phases of the two diseases in particular have very similar symptoms.
Work like this has helped to ensure that not only do patients get the right treatment, but hospital-acquired cases of both Lassa and COVID-19 among healthcare workers are prevented in the region – one of the key goals of our project.
Given the limited healthcare workers in the region, protecting them is vital to the health of the community here.
Having achieved these gains, our role is now to support healthcare teams to implement and adhere strictly to the guidelines, using targeted health promotion messages, while continuing our case management and infection prevention control support/capacity building of the local healthcare workforce.
We’re working around the clock to ensure we consolidate everything we’ve achieved for Lassa fever, while still tackling the covid pandemic.
How do you usually celebrate Christmas? What will you be doing in 2020?
I will be celebrating Christmas in the field this year, contributing to clinical research, case management of Lassa fever and preparing the local healthcare workforce for the next Lassa fever peak season which starts just after the Christmas celebrations.
Previously, I celebrated Christmas with my family, with occasional holidays to resorts and carnivals.
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