How Firestone controlled Ebola virus disease in Liberia

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 among 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. A description of this program, just issued by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is a must read.

I found the following paragraph, Community Reintegration of Ebola Survivors, perhaps the most significant in the report:

To prepare communities for the return of Ebola survivors and minimize potential stigmatization, Firestone established a survivor reintegration program. The program consisted of community education, whereby members of the reintegration team explained that the survivor had been declared Ebola-free and no longer contagious, and a survivor welcome celebration. The celebrations were prepared by the community with assistance from the reintegration team and attended by MOHSW, Firestone staff, and clergy. Each survivor was presented a medical certificate and an opportunity to share his or her experience. The celebrations were broadcast on radio and recorded for future programs for Ebola education in the community. In addition, Firestone donated a solidarity package to the survivor, which included essential household items (e.g., mattress, bedding material, and mosquito net).

Among all our discussion of virus fatality, transmission, virulence, fomites, and vaccines, we should remember that people are contracting the virus. At all stages of disease they need to be treated with humanity.

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  • Sannica

    This is amazing. What a great example of how to deal with outbreaks, with employees, with health – and coming from a company completely outside of the health field.

  • poxdoc

    Cool.

  • Marketa P.

    Amazing. I am wondering, if someone survives the infection of ebola, does he/she got lifelong immunity to it?
    Thanks for answer.

  • pk

    “Among all our discussion of virus fatality, transmission, virulence,
    fomites, and vaccines, we should remember that people are contracting
    the virus. At all stages of disease they need to be treated with
    humanity”
    Sure doesn’t seem to apply to vaccine skeptics

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  • Trine Tsouderos

    Vincent, I read the MMWR but it doesn’t say how or when Firestone developed this plan. Did someone help them develop it? Or did they develop it in response to earlier outbreaks? It seems very organized and elaborate – and effective and humane. Would love to learn more.

  • I don’t have any more information, but I believe they looked at previous outbreak responses and devised their own. Not sure if they had one ready to go. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/06/354054915/firestone-did-what-governments-have-not-stopped-ebola-in-its-tracks

  • Good question. The only way to address that in humans is to wait for a generation or more in at-risk areas. Hasn’t been done.

  • Trine Tsouderos

    Remarkable. I hope someone writes a detailed case study – or better yet, a book – on how Firestone responded. Was it resources? Great leadership? It doesn’t sound like they had an elaborate plan in place waiting to be implemented once ebola hit their community. It sounds more like they did a great job of focusing on the problem, being tremendously organized and getting everybody on board. A welcome positive story amid so much grim news.