38 Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) swabbers and surveillance officers in Western Area and Kenema were trained in a pilot ahead of a national rollout of the RST, which is scheduled for either later this month or early March. The use of OraQuick’s RST is expected to improve compliance with dead body swabbing, which will enhance Ebola surveillance in the region.
The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak was the largest Ebola outbreak in history and was responsible for more than 11,300 fatalities, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. According to the 3 February WHO Situation Report, a confirmed case of Ebola was reported on 14 January 2016 in Sierra Leone after a postmortem swab collected from a deceased woman tested positive for the Ebola virus. Therefore the rollout of an effective and rapid Ebola test is essential before another Ebola outbreak occurs in the region.
In Sierra Leone it’s a common cultural practice for family members to wash and prepare their deceased relative before burial. Although this practice was discontinued by the Sierra Leone government during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it has since been allowed as long as the deceased tests negative for the Ebola virus.
To confirm the corpse is Ebola free a swab of the body is taken before the body is approved for burial and delivered to a regional laboratory for testing. However, due to a lack of resources, swab laboratory confirmations can take between two and five days, or even longer, before the family is informed of the result.
The benefit of point-of-care tests like OraQuick is that family members can be notified of results almost immediately, and the deceased’s body can be released to them on the same day.
OraQuick is easy to perform and requires only a drop of blood from a finger prick or swab from the oral cavity of a live patient. A swab from the oral cavity of the deceased person may also be used for testing. The tests can be performed onsite, require minimal specialised training to perform, and produce a presumptive result in only 30 minutes.
The RST has received US FDA’s Emergency Use Authorisation approval. When testing deceased bodies, only OraQuick has been cleared for use.