(MNN) — HCJB Global Hands Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ) in Ecuador is leading Ecuador's preparations to fight the
outbreak of swine flu.
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,
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
"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.