- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Several Washington University doctors who have abandoned their work in parts of West Africa because of an Ebola outbreak have found alternative ways to help.

Dr. Gary Weil is an infectious disease specialist who is part of a team researching the most efficient way of treating diseases spread by flies and mosquitoes. With that research on hold, a number of Weil’s West African colleagues are now working to contain the Ebola outbreak, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/ZUzL2A) reports.

The most worrisome part of that news came when Weil discovered that his colleagues were being asked to work in treatment centers that did not have proper protective gear. So far, Weil and others at Washington University were able to send $5,000 worth of gloves, gowns, masks, goggles and no-touch thermometers to Liberia, courtesy of the Foundation for Barnes Jewish Hospital.

“The project we were working on was not really saving lives. These materials will save lives,” Weil said.

Washington University infectious disease researcher Peter Fischer is involved in the same research. He left Africa in March. Fischer said he knows of four colleagues who have sick relatives and another colleague who recently lost his mother to Ebola.

“We worked with them for weeks in really difficult situations. They are not only our colleagues, but our friends,” he said. “We were lucky to have such a good team. Now we don’t know if the team will still be there when we go back.”

Dr. Mark Manary, a Washington University pediatrician, and an expert on childhood malnutrition, said the number of people Ebola kills directly could be dwarfed by the number of people killed indirectly by the famine that could follow.

Like other doctors, Manary’s work is on hold, but he’s hoping the Project Peanut Butter nonprofit he runs with his wife, Mardi, can keep running.

Project Peanut Butter manufactures a peanut butter-based mixture using local ingredients. The idea is to provide poor families with an inexpensive food that doesn’t spoil easily and can help malnourished children put on weight.

“I can’t go back, but the nonprofit is still going,” he said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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