- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - A Mankato resident who worked in public health and environmental engineering for more than 20 years has been tackling his most dramatic assignment yet: the deadly Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Since November, Dave Ausdemore has spent much of his time in Monrovia, Liberia. He serves as the Country Director of eHealth Systems Africa, a nongovernmental organization fighting the disease, which has killed more than 11,000 since the first case last spring.

Ausdemore returned to Mankato last month for just the second time since November, The Free Press of Mankato (http://bit.ly/1G4C3fB ) reported. On Friday he and his son, a senior-to-be at Mankato West High School, will return to Monrovia. His son will volunteer there for three weeks, while Ausdemore could stay for another year.

Ausdemore oversaw more than 200 workers in Liberia’s 15 counties at the height of his organization’s response. He said he and his co-workers worked 16-hour days to build and renovate the country’s poor infrastructure.

“There was just that desperation of, ‘This is getting out of control and we really don’t know what to do,’” Ausdemore said Saturday.

His field teams worked to build trust with the local chieftains, trying to get the villagers to report symptoms to the Ebola treatment centers.

“It was common for people to hide their loved ones, so it was very tough to identify who had been affected,” Ausdemore said. “It was a stigma that people just did not want to be associated with.”

EHealth Systems worked with the World Health Organization and Liberia’s Ministry of Health to develop rapid isolation centers, Ausdemore said. Those were tented living areas on the outskirts of villages in which people were more willing to go through the quarantine process.

The organization also offered staff support to local areas and incentives for people to stay in quarantine.

Ausdemore reached out to eHealth Systems in October, after hearing about it from a former colleague. The next month, he was on a plane to assist in the fight against the epidemic.

It was a tough decision to go there, he said.

His wife, Tiffany Ausdemore, said it was something he had been preparing for his entire life, although she questioned it at first.

“Then I started thinking about it, him as a person, his career and who he is, and knew he had to go,” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”

Fewer cases of the disease appeared in the winter months, and the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free in May.

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Information from: The Free Press, http://www.mankatofreepress.com

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