Nosocomial transmission of Ebola virus disease on pediatric and maternity wards: Bombali and Tonkolili, Sierra Leone, 2014

Am J Infect Control. 2016 Mar 1;44(3):269-72. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2015.09.016. Epub 2015 Oct 30.


Background: In the largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in history, nosocomial transmission of EVD increased spread of the disease. We report on 2 instances in Sierra Leone where patients unknowingly infected with EVD were admitted to a general hospital ward (1 pediatric ward and 1 maternity ward), exposing health care workers, caregivers, and other patients to EVD. Both patients died on the general wards, and were later confirmed as being infected with EVD. We initiated contact tracing and assessed risk factors for secondary infections to guide containment recommendations.

Methods: We reviewed medical records to establish the index patients' symptom onset. Health care workers, patients, and caregivers were interviewed to determine exposures and personal protective equipment (PPE) use. Contacts were monitored daily for EVD symptoms. Those who experienced EVD symptoms were isolated and tested.

Results: Eighty-two contacts were identified: 64 health care workers, 7 caregivers, 4 patients, 4 newborns, and 3 children of patients. Seven contacts became symptomatic and tested positive for EVD: 2 health care workers (1 nurse and 1 hospital cleaner), 2 caregivers, 2 newborns, and 1 patient. The infected nurse placed an intravenous catheter in the pediatric index patient with only short gloves PPE and the hospital cleaner cleaned the operating room of the maternity ward index patient wearing short gloves PPE. The maternity ward index patient's caregiver and newborn were exposed to her body fluids. The infected patient and her newborn shared the ward and latrine with the maternity ward index patient. Hospital staff members did not use adequate PPE. Caregivers were not offered PPE.

Conclusions: Delayed recognition of EVD and inadequate PPE likely led to exposures and secondary infections. Earlier recognition of EVD and adequate PPE might have reduced direct contact with body fluids. Limiting nonhealth-care worker contact, improving access to PPE, and enhancing screening methods for pregnant women, children, and inpatients may help decrease EVD transmission in general health care settings.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Hospital-acquired infection; Infection control; Outbreak; West Africa.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Contact Tracing
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Female
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Personal Protective Equipment / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Sierra Leone / epidemiology