WHO: “Drastic Action” Needed To Deal With West Africa Ebola Epidemic
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
“Drastic action is needed” in order to stop a deadly Ebola virus outbreak that has caused widespread infection and killed hundreds of people throughout West Africa, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Friday.
According to CNN‘s Danielle Dellorto, Miriam Falco, and Jen Christensen, the WHO has said it has sent teams of experts to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in order to help local health officials deal with the growing epidemic, and that the agency plans to meet next week to discuss containment options.
The epidemic began in March, and according to the WHO’s latest update on June 22, there were 390 reported cases (258 confirmed) and 267 deaths in Guinea; 136 reported cases (103 confirmed) and 58 deaths in Sierra Leone; and 41 reported cases (24 confirmed) and 25 deaths in Liberia.
“Relief workers on the ground said the epidemic has hit unprecedented proportions,” the CNN reporters explained, with Doctors Without Borders director of operations Dr. Bart Janssens adding that the spread of the disease “is out of control.” Coupled with the medical infrastructure problems in these countries, Dellorto, Falco and Christensen said that there is a “sense of mistrust from communities there of the help that has been sent.”
While Ebola outbreaks are typically confined to smaller areas, making it easier to contain the disease, the spread of the disease across West Africa has made this infection more difficult to deal with, according to CNN. Patients have been identified in 60 different locations across the three countries, and this is being blamed in part on how close the region is where the outbreak began with the Guinea capital of Conakry, home to approximately two million people.
Approximately 60 percent of those who have become infected with the virus – which begins with flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever and fatigue before progressing to vomiting, diarrhea and ultimately internal hemorrhaging – have died, according to BBC News. It is reportedly the largest outbreak ever in terms of number of cases, number of deaths, and geological spread.
On Friday, Reuters reported the WHO issued a warning that government and healthcare officials in the countries bordering those already affected by the epidemic should prepare for the potential arrival of travelers infected with Ebola.
“We want other countries in West Africa to be ready – bordering countries, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, Guinea Bissau – to prepare themselves in case people affected with the disease may be also traveling,” WHO medical officer Dr. Pierre Formenty said at a briefing in Geneva, according to the news agency’s Stephanie Nebehay.
“Formenty said it was difficult to stop the spread of the virus in forested areas of the three countries already affected by the epidemic and to change people’s burial practices which facilitate its transmission,” Nebehay added. However, he said that the UN health agency was not planning to recommend trade or travel restrictions to the region.
People could be carrying the disease without even knowing it, as it can take between two and 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus for the first symptoms to show up, according to CNN. There is no cure or vaccine to treat the disease, and it reportedly kills 90 percent of infected patients. The outbreak will not be considered contained until twice the maximum incubation period (42 days) passes without any new cases being reported.