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Ebola worst infectious disease in world, says Ulster Hospital medic

By Staff Reporter

Published 19/10/2015

Dr Tom Trinick receives a medal for his work in Sierra Leone
Dr Tom Trinick receives a medal for his work in Sierra Leone

An Ulster Hospital doctor honoured for his work helping victims of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone has described it as "the worst infectious disease in the world - in a class of its own".

Dr Tom Trinick is a consultant at the east Belfast hospital in his day job - and a Lieutenant Colonel in the 204 Field Hospital unit in his spare time.

In 2014 he was part of the Army's Operation Gritrock in Sierra Leone, helping the thousands of west Africans suffering from the fast-spreading disease.

The Ebola outbreak was first detected in Freetown, Sierra Leone in September 2014 and rapidly spread. By the end of that month, up to 30 bodies needed to be buried each day and an estimated 1,940 cases had been detected.

By October, five people an hour were being infected in Sierra Leone and the largest number of fatalities in one day was 121. It was then that the UK announced it would send troops to help, with British medics serving alongside Canadian and Irish colleagues.

While many medics served on FA Argus, Dr Trinick was among those on the ground working with those suspected of having the virus. He was based in Kerrytown, 30km from the Freetown epicentre.

Dr Trinick recalled the number infected and the precautions he and other medics took to remain safe themselves.

"We went through a very stringent training programme in which we were tested, so if we fell down - which some people unfortunately did in terms of putting gloves on the wrong way - they were stopped from going. You had to prove that you were safe to go."

Dr Trinick said he has never met a disease like Ebola.

"It was the worst infectious disease in the world, Ebola is in a class of its own," he said.

"That is why it was category four. In the UK there are only two labs that can handle category four diseases."

The consultant in General Medicine and Chemical Pathology now has a medal for his service in Sierra Leone, and said Ulster Hospital colleagues were fascinated by his medical experiences with the Reserves.

"Serving in places like Iraq and Bosnia, you see such different things," he said.

Dr Trinick joined 204 Field Hospital with a friend who was an anaesthetist. "He said, 'Come on Tom and join the TA and we'll get to do the research we used to do'," he said.

"I wasn't sure they did research but I went along anyway and I have stayed 16 years.

"I am grateful to my friend and just sorry I didn't do it previously."

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