Hospital Vozandes Quito opened in 1955 and has an inpatient bed capacity of 74. (Photo courtesy of HCJB)
Missionary Dr. Richard Douce is an infectious disease specialist and resident expert on influenza in Ecuador. Douce and Ecuadorian Dr. Wilson Chicaiza have been working with the U.S. Navy tropical medicine lab in Lima, Peru to track cases of influenza at HVQ for nine years.
HVQ also helped set up a tracking system at Hospital del Beneficiencia in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest hospital. The data collected has enabled the two doctors to isolate two types of influenza -- good preparation for catching any cases of swine flu in Ecuador.
"The goal is to contain the illness to provide time for a vaccine to be introduced," Chicaiza explained. HVQ has ordered supplies of Tamiflu, an antiviral medication thought to fight the swine flu, and made preparations to provide masks for patients leaving the hospital. It plans to isolate any of its patients who may have swine flu.
The hospital performs a bedside test that allows it to determine the type of each patient's influenza in the space of only ten minutes. It also takes influenza cultures from patients and sends the cultures not only to the U.S. Navy laboratory in Lima, but also to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
"We've been thinking the world is ready for a flu pandemic, but we've been focusing on the avian flu," Douce said. He added that he has three reasons to be concerned about the recent outbreak of swine flu: the outbreak is not occurring during the regular flu season; it attacks young adults at a higher rate than usual; and the virus is spreading rapidly from one continent to another.
The swine flu spread to South America when it reached Peru last Wednesday and could reach Ecuador any day now. The virus resembles the 1918 flu virus that killed 40 million people. However, enhanced technology and preparations such as those being made in Quito should prevent a pandemic of those proportions.
Pray that the work at HPV will help spread the Gospel in Quito's medical community, among flu patients and their families, and even among international organizations and medical experts.