Tulane Ebola researchers 'honored' to share TIME's 'Person of the Year' nod

Tulane Ebola researchers 'honored' to share TIME's 'Person of the Year' nod

"[Ebola is] completely out of control, and we're struggling to get it taken care of."

It's a sobering take on Ebola's deadly tear through parts of West Africa from a Tulane doctor who has spent weeks fighting the virus on the front lines.

"We just can't get to all these places and there are lots of areas where it's been going on and nobody has noticed," said John Schieffelin, M.D., an assistant professor at Tulane School of Medicine.

Schieffelin is a member of Tulane's research and response team in Sierra Leone. The university has maintained a presence in the region for years, conducting research on Ebola and other diseases. This year, team members have been working to develop a rapid diagnostic test, which would allow doctors to detect the virus in a patient in minutes.

Those battling the outbreak, including volunteers from numerous countries, are performing critical work amid harsh conditions, Schieffelin said.

"We're trying to get a 90 percent mortality rate down to 50 or 60 percent. So, when we're seeing the vast majority of our patients dying while we're treating them, it's very emotionally stressful," he said.

Now, the response effort is gaining international recognition.

Last week, Time Magazine named the Ebola Fighters as its "Person of the Year."

Tulane officials say it's a well-deserved honor for their own researchers, who have been at the forefront throughout the 2014 outbreak.

"Both the investigators and the clinicians are heroic individuals," said Tulane Med School Dean Lee Hamm, M.D. "Not only were they investigating this when it was well-contained, but they've stayed, gone back during the midst of the epidemic -- something to be really admired."

Schieffelin spent the last three weeks under precautionary quarantine after returning from his second trip to West Africa since August.

As the crisis continues, he hopes the world will keep paying attention.

"It's pretty depressing. I think we were all really optimistic that maybe by March or April we might see an end. The way things are going now, I think it's more likely June to September," Schieffelin said. "That's where the focus needs to be, on getting the resources there and supporting the people who are doing the work to end this outbreak as quickly as we can."

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