Jordan Tustin is an epidemiologist. She’s been in the middle of epidemics before, but this time it was different. The Ebola virus changes everything.
“I think the difference with this (epidemic) is that it was Ebola and it’s a very challenging situation when people are dying. People are losing their mothers, fathers, daughters and sons,” said Tustin, who’s also an assistant professor at Ryerson’s school of occupational and public health. “We can’t stop working until there are zero cases.”
Tustin recently spent five weeks in Kankan, Guinea’s largest city in land area, tracking and fighting Ebola. As an epidemiologist, she made sure everyone who had possibly come into contact with the virus was found and examined, and that local health workers received proper training.
Tustin said she felt obliged to help with the international response to the Ebola virus.
“I feel the initial response to the Ebola epidemic was very egocentric,” she said.
“I think many countries didn’t respond as quickly as they could have and were more concerned about their own backyard.”
She left Canada on Dec. 4 for Geneva, where she received training at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) main headquarters.
She returned to Canada after five weeks of work and is now back to teaching her classes. She uses her experiences as educational anecdotes for her lectures.
Tustin is thinking of going back to work in Guinea after this semester, but she hopes it won’t be necessary and that the epidemic will be controlled by then.
She also said that it can be hard to come back to Canada and not be in such a stressful situation anymore.
“You have to make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared,” Tustin said, adding that it was required for her to see a psychologist after the trip. She said that being in Guinea was challenging and that “every day depended on what happened in the outbreak.” But she wasn’t too concerned about contracting the disease while there. She knew it wasn’t a zero-risk mission, but was confident in her training.
“You have to be worried, because if you’re not worried, you’re not taking proper precautions.”
Tustin will be speaking about her experience with Ebola at a Ryerson event March 4.
This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb 4, 2015.