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Homecare for sick family members while waiting for medical help during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone: a mixed methods study
  • Published Date:
    Jul 2020
  • Source:
    BMJ Glob Health. 2020; 5(7)
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-503.91 KB]

  • Alternative Title:
    BMJ Glob Health
  • Description:

    Caring for an Ebola patient is a known risk factor for disease transmission. In Sierra Leone during the outbreak in 2014/2015, isolation of patients in specialised facilities was not always immediately available and caring for a relative at home was sometimes the only alternative. This study sought to assess population-level protective caregiving intentions, to understand how families cared for their sick and to explore perceived barriers and facilitators influencing caregiving behaviours.


    Data from a nationwide household survey conducted in December 2014 were used to assess intended protective behaviours if caring for a family member with suspected Ebola. Their association with socio-demographic variables, Ebola-specific knowledge and risk perception was analysed using multilevel logistic regression. To put the results into context, semi-structured interviews with caregivers were conducted in Freetown.


    Ebola-specific knowledge was positively associated with the intention to avoid touching a sick person and their bodily fluids (adjusted OR (AOR) 1.29; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.54) and the intention to take multiple protective measures (AOR 1.38; 95% CI 1.16 to 1.63). Compared with residing in the mostly urban Western Area, respondents from the initial epicentre of the outbreak (Eastern Province) had increased odds to avoid touching a sick person or their body fluids (AOR 4.74; 95% CI 2.55 to 8.81) and to take more than one protective measure (AOR 2.94; 95% CI 1.37 to 6.34). However, interviews revealed that caregivers, who were mostly aware of the risk of transmission and general protective measures, felt constrained by different contextual factors. Withholding care was not seen as an option and there was a perceived lack of practical advice.


    Ebola outbreak responses need to take the sociocultural reality of caregiving and the availability of resources into account, offering adapted and acceptable practical advice. The necessity to care for a loved one when no alternatives exist should not be underestimated.

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