A young Wyre doctor is fighting to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus which has claimed more than 9,000 victims in West Africa.
Dr James Meiring, 29, started a five-week voluntary stint in Sierra Leone after arriving in the country at the weekend with a group of UK health workers – the latest to join the global effort trying to stem the world’s worst health crisis in decades.
Dr Meiring, who grew up in Garstang and was educated in Garstang and Poulton, is based in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, one of the areas affected by the epidemic.
Scores of British health workers have spent time in West Africa in recent months, including nurses Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey who both contracted the virus despite stringent procedures.
They survived after lengthy specialised treatment back in the UK.
Shortly before he left for the danger zone, Dr Meiring told The Gazette of his desire to fight the virus which attacks almost every organ and tissue in the human body, causing blood clotting, haemorrhages, disruption of blood supplies to the liver, brain, lungs and kidneys.
He said: “We went through a rigorous training course prior to deployment, organised by the UK Government.
“This all makes me confident in the procedures.
“Despite this, I think I am appropriately nervous given the serious nature of the illness.”
Asked about his motivation he said: “Ultimately it comes down to one of the world’s oldest questions, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The answer has to be a definitive yes.
“As human beings we have a responsibility to look after and help our fellow man, whoever and wherever they are.
“Applying that is difficult but with my training and NHS experience this is something I can do to help, to assist people who are suffering from an awful infectious disease.”
In Makeni, Dr Meiring will work with suspected and confirmed Ebola patients at a treatment centre recently built by soldiers from the Royal Engineers.
“The centre is run by International Medical Corps UK, a non-governmental organisation to which James is attached.
He is a former pupil of Garstang St Thomas’s CE Primary, Garstang High School and Baines School Sixth Form, where he was deputy head boy.
His parents, Les and Joyce Meiring, live at Cabus.
Dr Meiring’s mother, Joyce, said: “People keep asking me if I am worried for him, and I’m not actually, but I will be glad when he is back.
“I think going there may change him as a person, but with having a very positive, outgoing personality I think he will cope.”
Dr Meiring studied medicine at Sheffield University where he met his wife, Ruth, also a doctor.
The couple have a son, Jonty, two.
Dr Meiring has been based in Sheffield since graduating.
He is currently registrar of infectious diseases for the NHS in Sheffield, but is a regular visitor to his parents’ Cabus home.
The Sierra Leone mission is not his first visit to Africa.
In 2009 he spent several months in Zambia as part of his medical training.