KC nurse goes to Africa as part of WHO team fighting Ebola

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The World Health Organization says a vaccine for Ebola may be available by the end of the year. A metro nurse heads overseas Thursday. Tom Button was chosen by WHO to help stop the spread in west Africa.

At least 5,800 people have been sickened by Ebola, and 2,800 have died so far. It could be 1.4 million sickened by the end of January, according to a new Centers for Disease Control model. But if control efforts are stepped up quickly, the epidemic could be nearly over then.

"When you're talking about what potentially could be a global issue if we don't get it contained, I can't imagine not doing what I could," said Button, director of infection control for Truman Medical Centers.

Button goes to Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday, then on to Sierra Leone next week as part of a World Health Organization team. For a month, he'll see that caregivers there are trained in and utilize basic infection control methods. They are methods long used in the U.S.

"Good hand hygiene is still the number one thing you can do," said the nurse.

He says even though there's great fear of Ebola, the virus is only spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids. It's not airborne.

"It's not where you have to worry about the entire environment, your work station being contaminated like with so many things we work with," said Button.

Still, he says he's going to Africa with some healthy fear.

"For one thing, don't let your guard down. So assume that everybody is sick," Button said.

He says his trip matches Truman Medical Centers' mission to help the underserved.