When the first case of Ebola virus infection was detected at the Firestone Liberia, Inc. rubber tree plantation in March of this year, the company needed to prevent the virus from spreading to their 8,500 employees. The company established an incident management system, developed procedures for early detection of infection, enforced infection control guidelines, and provided different levels of management for contacts depending on their exposure.
The company did a remarkable job of isolating and caring for patients and limiting transmission to health care workers and family members. This program is described in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and it is a must read for all business continuity professionals.
The Firestone response had several unique elements for West Africa:
- 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. All of the 21 patient contacts who progressed to Ebola were among those who voluntarily quarantined.
- Integration of health education and distribution of personal protective equipment and waste disposal equipment to family members of suspected Ebola patients. As Liberia currently lacks enough Ebola treatment units to meet demand, such minimal supportive care might limit Ebola transmission among family members who must care for patients in home or community settings.
- 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.