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Safe and well: Defence Forces medics return home from Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone experienced a spike in new cases last week. A replacement Irish team has already been sent out.

Updated at 3.40pm

AFTER FOUR MONTHS in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, five members of a Defence Forces medical team arrived home in Dublin this afternoon – having finished their tour of duty, alongside the British Armed Forces.

The team – headed by Captain Eugene O’Connor – was based in Kerrytown on the east coast of the country.

As part of the international response to stem the spread of the deadly disease, they were tasked with providing medical support to teams caring for Ebola victims.

However – as O’Connor explained on Morning Ireland – there was a spike in cases as they arrived in the country, and the team were dispatched to response centres in more remote regions where they also looked after village quarantine and “protecting locals”.

Asked about their own health, O’Connor said:

“Before we left we were rigorously trained in personal protective equipment, ensuring no harm came to ourselves while in theatre.

We ran through numerous iterations about the processes to ensure that our healthcare was paramount, and that there was no risk to us or any member of the team.

“They’re a very resilient people,” O’Connor added.

We certainly helped them in their fight against Ebola, and I think they’re well equipped to deal with the ravages of Ebola.

A replacement team has already been sent out.

New spike

While Ebola has dropped out of the headlines in recent months, both Sierra Leone and Guinea experienced a spike in new cases last week, according to the World Health Organization.

The seven days ending Sunday “saw the highest weekly total of confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease for over a month,” the UN health body said in its latest update.

Sierra Leone saw the number of new cases shoot up to eight, from just two a week earlier. The increase brought to an end “a sequence of three consecutive falls in weekly case incidence,” WHO said.

Liberia, once the worst-hit country, was declared Ebola-free on 9 May. But speaking this week, a senior WHO official said the crisis was far from over in the two neighbouring countries, and refused to give a timeframe for them to acquire a similar status.

The Irish team is landed in Baldonnel this afternoon.

With reporting from AFP. 

Read: This is what Christmas looked like for Irish troops serving overseas

Read: Ugandan singer faces 10 years in jail – for a music video

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