Ebola is now an international health emergency

Aug 8, 2014 17:52 UTC

The World Health Organization has officially declared the Ebola epidemic in West Africa an international health emergency. The death toll has reached almost 1,000 in four countries (932 at last count). Yesterday, the U.S. ordered the families of diplomats to leave Liberia due to the danger of the virus.

Reuters reports that Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO, told reporters, “the declaration … will galvanize the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone.”

However, the organization is also stressing that the virus can be contained if the proper steps are taken. While the fatality rate for those who contract the disease is high (about 60% for this particular strain), it’s actually relatively hard to catch it. The incubation period is long, up to 21 days, but people with the disease aren’t usually contagious until they begin exhibiting symptoms. Even then, it takes contact with infected body fluids to contract it.

ebola2

Click through the rest of the interactive graphic here.

Here’s Reuters with more about experimental treatments:

After an experimental drug was administered to two U.S. charity workers who were infected in Liberia, Ebola specialists urged the WHO to offer such drugs to Africans. The U.N. agency has asked medical ethics experts to explore this option next week.

David Heymann, a former WHO official and now director of the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, who this week urged the WHO to show greater leadership and to consider allowing the use of experimental drugs for Africans affected by Ebola, said governments should step up their response.

The major message, he said, was that the three known measures that stop Ebola outbreaks – hospital infection control, community understanding of risks of infection, and contact tracing – “appear not to have been robustly enough applied”.

Ebola claims more victims

Jul 28, 2014 20:41 UTC

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has gotten scarier. More than 670 people have died of the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now Nigeria, which on Friday confirmed that a man in Lagos had died of the deadly disease. Over the weekend, Liberia closed most border crossings into and out of the country to try to clamp down on the spread of the virus, which can kill up to 90 percent of victims (in this outbreak the fatality rate is around 60 percent).

Here’s what the outbreak looks like geographically as of late last week.

Ebola

The governments trying to battle Ebola in West Africa are up against two huge issues: first, there’s a lot of mistrust of health care workers in the region where the disease is most prevalent. The family of an Ebola patient in Sierra Leone “forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer,” Reuters reports. She died Saturday in an ambulance after authorities found her and tried to get her back to the treatment center.

The second problem: the health workers trying to battle it are getting sick themselves. The doctor in charge of treating the outbreak in Sierra Leone tested positive for the disease last Wednesday. Reuters reported over the weekend that two American doctors working in Liberia also contracted it. Samuel Brisbane, a senior doctor working in Liberia, recently died.

Ebola crisis spreads

Jun 30, 2014 17:44 UTC

West Africa is experiencing the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, the deadly virus that can kill up to 90 percent of those who contract it. Since this outbreak was first documented in February in Guinea, 635 people have been infected and nearly 400 have died, according to Reuters. So far, cases have been contained to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, but a World Health Organization report out this week warned that neighboring nations should be prepared for outbreaks there as well.

 Ebola Map / W. Foo

Dr. Bart Janssens, director of operations at Doctors Without Borders (DWB), has said the problem is an epidemic that’s “out of control.” As the disease has spread, so has the fear of it. In April, a mob descended on a DWB treatment center in Guinea, accusing healthcare workers of bringing Ebola to the region.

However, the Reuters report also notes WHO hasn’t advised any travel or trade restrictions.

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