Dec 22, 2014 10:21 PM

Top NH health expert home after helping in Ebola fight

NEW LONDON - In addition to being a mother of 3 children, New Hampshire's Deputy Epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Talbot has always wanted to help fight infectious diseases.

Five weeks ago, she left her small town and family behind - headed for Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa where the cases of the deadly Ebola virus disease have skyrocketed in the past year.

"Here's a society that's recovering from it's own civil war and the atrocities of that - and facing a new enemy," Dr. Talbot told NH1.

Talbot said while helping to save the lives of others in Sierra Leone, her life was changed quite a bit as well: her diet was limited to mostly rice and eggs, power was unreliable and communication with her family was very limited.

Working alongside so many who faced the threat of sickness and infection, Talbot worked as a leader in education on the virus disease.

In the U.S., Talbot usually assists in classes at Dartmouth College. But in West Africa, she was tasked with teaching "Ebola 101," as she calls it; setting up informational sessions with lectures and simulations.

She returned home at the end of last week, and is not facing a quarantine because she wasn't in direct contact with those sick with Ebola.

She is, however, being asked by the state to self-monitor by taking her temperature twice a day.

"I don't have to stay in my home," Talbot said. "I certainly have been looking forward to staying in my home and just recovering from a very long, tiring trip."

Talbot and her husband, Stephane Courtine, have three children - Daniel, Christophe and Juliette.

With the severe threats Ebola has posed on so many in West Africa, Talbot's family consistently thought of her while she was away.

"When she was there we could maybe talk for a minute and then it would get disconnected," said Talbot's son Christophe.

Explaining the realistic threat of "catching" Ebola was something her entire family has had to face as well.

"My friends parents mostly," said her daughter, Juliette. "They want to know more about where she's going and the quarantine and about stuff like that."

Talbot said New Hampshire has been a "model state" for alleviating misconceptions about the deadly virus disease, alluding to some fellow parents at her children's schools who requested they be quarantined with her.

"That's not a plausible chain of transmission," Talbot explained.

She also praises co-workers, including Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero, for their efforts in educating the public about Ebola.

But it's Talbot who's receiving praise, her husband Stephane Courtine says.

"People that I didn't know came up to me to say thank you for what Elizabeth did," said Courtine. "[They] actually said that they were very proud of her and very proud that she would represent New London and New Hampshire overseas in fighting against Ebola."

According to the CDC, there have been 19,065 cases of Ebola in West Africa so far. 7,388 people have died.

Talbot said she wouldn't be opposed to returning to West Africa to help continue the fight in what she calls a 'skyrocketing epidemic' that needs more attention - she said she'd just have to make sure it's okay with her family first.


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