Trish Henwood is home from Liberia, where she spent five weeks working in an Ebola treatment unit, but on Monday the University of Pennsylvania emergency department physician is going back.

Henwood, 34, director of global initiatives for the emergency department of Penn's health system, called the experience the most profound of her life. She said she declared more people dead - probably 40 - than she ever had or likely ever will in an American emergency room.

The dying children ripped her apart the most.

"It's really tough to see children die," she said.

But she also feels the work is vitally important, that great progress is being made, that the virus can be stopped, and that America must continue its support in fighting the deadly virus and epidemic.

Henwood has traveled the world doing emergency medicine in remote places, but had never before faced the Ebola virus. She felt she was well trained and well prepared.

"The skills that I have, personally and professionally, I think serve well there," she said.

She spent five weeks in Bong County, a remote area in Northern Liberia, in an Ebola treatment unit run by the International Medical Corps. She came home after Thanksgiving.

When she returns for another five weeks, she thinks she will be also going to Sierra Leone, where the epidemic is now spreading the fastest.

One of her goals is to create a rapid response team.

"Create teams that can try and identify areas where outbreaks are sparking, and get there faster and get patients to the [treatment unit] sooner," she said.

Henwood's specialty has been using ultrasound machines in remote areas where there are no other diagnostic tools. She found the ultrasound very useful in the Ebola treatment units.

Because doctors and nurses wear protective suits and their ears are covered, they can't even use stethoscopes.

Henwood was able to use the ultrasound to see fluid in the abdomen and bowel distension. She developed a "very preliminary theory" that some patients with Ebola, which is a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics, also developed secondary infections in their gastrointestinal tracts, "and I think some of them were actually dying from that."

When she saw distended bowels, she immediately began IV antibiotics, "and some of them, obviously, still died. It's very hard to turn them around when you have a bacterial infection in their blood. But some of them did survive. I'm going back to investigate that more."

She said even though Ebola has dropped from U.S. headlines, it is very important that Americans "educate themselves" and curtail "that culture of fear." Even though Ebola is a deadly virus, by following careful protocols it can be contained, and individuals can be protected.

Americans need to support and encourage health care workers to go to West Africa to battle the virus.

"The important thing for people to recognize is, yes, it is very contagious, but if you're using appropriate measures then you can protect yourself and your staff. When you're following protocols exactly, then you can stay safe.

"It will never be here in the United States like it is in West Africa," she added, "because of our public health system."

She said she monitored herself carefully for 21 days after she left Liberia, spending the first 11 days in London training workers there, then coming home. She didn't return to work until the full 21 days had passed.

She will be working in the emergency department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania over the holidays and spending time with her family before she returns to West Africa.

As of Wednesday, nearly 7,900 people had died of Ebola in Africa, with 1,400 new cases reported in the previous three weeks, according to the World Health Organization.

"Things are still really bad and we need to maintain our focus," she said. "Thousands are still getting infected and dying in awful fashion."

215-854-5639 @MichaelVitez