Australian Nurses Receive Awards For Ebola Work

(By Australian Associated Press)

A nurse who helped organise the on-the-ground fight against the Ebola virus in west Africa has become one of four Australians to receive the profession's highest distinction.

Libby Bowell, 52, has been awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal in recognition of her work helping the victims of armed conflict and natural disasters, including cholera outbreaks in South Sudan and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Ms Bowell also with the Red Cross helped contain the spread of Ebola in Liberia.

"We had a few responsibilities," Ms Bowell told AAP.

"Liberia, sadly, has a high water table and they couldn't bury people so they made a medical decision to have medical cremations. We had teams going out and picking up 50 to 70 bodies a day in the time I was there.

"That was our focus. Community and the dead bodies."

Speaking from her home near Byron Bay, NSW, Ms Bowell says better knowledge of hygiene is fundamental in battling the highly infectious disease.

"Even though it's a terrible disease and it was rampaging its way through the country, really good public health and hygiene measures could make a difference," she said.

While in Liberia Ms Bowell also helped organise community volunteers to deliver messages across the country telling people how to stay safe and what to do if they displayed symptoms of the deadly haemorrhagic disease.

Liberia was declared Ebola free on May 9.

Other Australians who were recognised with the Florence Nightingale Medal include Amanda McClelland, who led the Red Cross response to the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, and Kerry Page and Nola Henry, who both worked in mobile surgical teams in South Sudan.

The medal has been awarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross since 1912, and it is the highest international distinction that can be achieved by a nurse.

This year, 36 nurses from 18 countries were recognised.

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