First, she pulls on the surgical gloves. Then, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia climbs into a Tyvek suit resembling baggy white coveralls. Over that, she dons rubber boots, an apron, a gown, and another pair of gloves. Then, she covers her head in a hood with a clear plastic front, strapping the attached air-filtering device to her waist.
With practice, Bhadelia can get into this protective garb in about 10 minutes. In recent weeks, she has been practicing, again and again, mindful of every step, especially the high-risk task of removing clothing that, in a clinic setting, could be soiled with dangerous microbes.
It will not be comfortable in the African heat, but Bhadelia is confident this equipment will keep her safe in Sierra Leone, the heart of history’s worst Ebola outbreak, where she is scheduled to go next week.
Bhadelia, an epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, is traveling with two other Americans under the auspices of the World Health Organization. They will fly into the capital city of Freetown, meet up with other physicians, and head into the countryside.
Is she scared? “Yes. It would be cavalier not to be,” Bhadelia said. “What you do in this situation is you look at it and you say, ‘Can I contribute?’ In my mind, what I can contribute is much higher than the fear that I have for my own safety.”
Bhadelia’s mission is chiefly humanitarian, but her trip is directly related to her other role in Boston, as infection control director for Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories, which is working, amid local controversy, toward approval as a Biosafety Level-4 lab. If all the approvals are obtained, the lab will study the highest-risk microbes, starting with Ebola and its cousin, Marburg...
...In addition to her medical training at Tufts and Columbia, Bhadelia earned a master’s degree in international affairs and human security from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
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