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Before current Ebola alerts, local pediatrician spent time in Africa

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Updated: 8/13 2:54 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- The World Health Organization recently held an emergency meeting to determine whether the Ebola outbreak now qualifies as a public health emergency.

The Center for Disease Control calls the scale of the outbreak "unprecedented."

For one pediatrician from Summerlin Hospital, this brings back memories of caring for the sick in Africa a year ago where a plastic cup was turned into medical device in the Kenyan village.

For Dr. Heather Books, the medical mission with Global Health Outreach was monumental. "They have no running water and they're cooking and eating," Dr. Books said. "This is why infection is so difficult in these countries."

Dr. Books said many villagers were forced to live with little health care and in extreme poverty.

She describes their chronic health problems as heartbreaking because most of them are treatable with modern medicine.

For more than two weeks in August 2013, Dr. Books was part of a team that saw hundreds of patients at the rate of 12 each hour. A school was converted into a medical facility, and she had just a few minutes to care for each patient.

"I saw several children with congenital glaucoma that was never treated and they were blind in one eye; that could be treated with drops," Dr. Books said.

Caring for the ill required her to take care of herself. She packed all the needed supplies and medications since she couldn’t assume village hospitals would be able provide items.

"We had one sink to wash our hands in, and we had 50 health care providers and patients using the same sink," she said. "There was no soap, and only one terry cloth bath towel soaking wet all day from people using it."

Dr. Books said she protected herself by bringing her own sterile supplies, but there was always the risk of getting sick herself.

"Ebola. It's always a possibility, but there are other risk factors and we know that going into it," Books said.

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