Why the Heroes at Doctors Without Borders Are Catching Ebola

They’re Not Wearing Respirators

Doctors Without Borders is the group of heroic doctors on the ground treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

(They do a lot of other great work all over the world during wars, natural disasters and other crisis.)

But their doctor Craig Spencer caught Ebola in West Africa, and is now in Bellvue Hospital in New York.

And as Doctors Without Borders notes last week:

To date, 24 MSF staff have contracted Ebola and 13 have died.   [“MSF” is short for the group’s official name in French: Medecins Sans Frontiers]

Why have they caught Ebola?

After all, they’re wearing protective gear.

Indeed, their website says:

They wear full personal protective equipment—PPE—that negates contact with the bodily fluids of patients.

These pictures from the group’s website may tell what’s really going on:


What’s missing?


Why respirators?  Because Ebola can spread through aerosols … so it is essential for all frontline healthcare workers to wear respirators.

Postscript: Doctors without borders assumes their doctors caught Ebola in town … just like the CDC assumes that the nurses in Dalls must have broken protocol.

But I think lack of respirators is a much more likely cause.

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  • MCB

    Great piece GW! 🙂

  • lew

    The first US MD to recover back here said they all thought they caught Ebola in the clinics, where they sorted who had malaria, etc. from Ebola patients. They are not protected in the clinics.

    • kimyo

      otoh, lab workers with no direct exposure to patients have been infected. until the methods of infection are known, the cdc’s assurances like ‘transmitted by fluids only’, ‘3 feet max’ ‘subways no problem’ are not based on science. do different strains have differing effectiveness in terms of infection? has a mutation taken place in one of the strains? the cdc is not accounting for the unknown unknowns.

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