The first Ebola Centre for Pregnant Women has opened in Freetown,
Sierra Leone, one of the three West African nations most affected by the disease.
This was disclosed in a report on Thursday.
The medical humanitarian organisation, Medecins San Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) opened the centre in the city.
The report said the centre would address the high rate of deaths among expectant mothers and health workers who care for them.
The opening of the centre came in the wake of local media reports that over 300 babies were buried within the past eight days in Freetown alone.
The 80-bed facility, which would focus mainly on treating pregnant women suspected or confirmed to have Ebola, is located in the east of the capital.
It is expected to bring the much-needed relief to residents in that part of the city which, even in normal times, records some of the country’s highest prenatal and postnatal mortality rates.
The group said that the key reason for setting up the specialist unit is to minimise the risk that pregnant women could pose to the health workers who were treating them.
Benjamin Black, an obstetrician who is on sabbatical at MSF researching how best to treat Ebola-affected pregnant women, said very little was known about Ebola and pregnancy.
“The Ebola virus is attracted to certain types of cells within the body,” he said. “The placenta happens to have a lot of those cells and invades those cells so it can multiply because of that you get a high amount of Ebola virus in the placenta and therefore crossing to the baby.”
Experts say that the viral load of Ebola in the placenta and the foetus, as well as the surrounding fluids, is extremely high, even if the woman herself has recovered.
According to the latest update from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sierra Leone has recorded over 3,000 deaths from the virus which has claimed a total of 8,414 lives mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.