The Ebola virus continues to spread in West Africa and is now considered an epidemic, according to medical experts on the scene who acknowledge they are having trouble containing it.
Nearly 500 deaths in three countries are now blamed on the virus, which appears to be spreading unchecked. One of the countries, Guinea, has an international airport. About 90 percent of the people who catch the disease die from it.
It’s the largest ebola outbreak ever. At least one US citizen was tested for it, although tests came back negative.
“The epidemic is out of control,” Dr. Bart Janssens, director of operations for the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told The Guardian. Janssens added there are now too many cases of Ebola for his organization’s teams to deal with. “We have reached our limits. Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites.”
The death toll from the epidemic is now estimated at 467, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization estimates that around 759 people have become infected with Ebola so far. “Drastic action” is needed, WHO reported.
Although 90 percent of the flights in Guinea are local, about 10 percent go to Paris – and from there, to other parts of the world, including America.
“The big question is whether sick people are going to get on a plane and spread the disease,” Kamran Khan, with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told NPR.
Governments doing little or nothing
Political authorities in the region are making things worse by ignoring the epidemic and refusing to warn the population about it, Janssens charged. He alleged that governments were failing to act and many local leaders were deliberately downplaying the disease.
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“The most important things are monitoring and communication,” Janssens said. “States are getting better but the problems of communication continue. The medical corps on their own cannot stop this epidemic. It is only with the help of the population that we can fight this epidemic and stop it.”
One reason why the outbreak is so bad is a shortage of medical facilities in the region. Instead of medical treatment, many of the region’s residents go to faith healers because there are so few doctors. Reuters reported that many families in Liberia were hiding Ebola patients. The government was threatening to prosecute those harboring them.
“It is illegal under our public health law to expose the people to health hazards such as Ebola,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated in a press release. “Let this warning go out, anyone found or reported to be holding suspected Ebola cases in homes or prayer houses will be prosecuted under the laws of Liberia.”
The situation in West Africa appears to be worse than many thought it was.
Janssens charged that local governments, other nations and international bodies were not doing enough to contain the disease. WHO also charged that governments have not done enough to contain the virus.
Ebola has been reported in three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Health workers are among the first to catch the disease and die.
Widespread ignorance about the disease is worsening its spread. Some people believe the Ebola epidemic is a hoax orchestrated by corrupt politicians and are even attacking health workers. Some in Guinea died because they thought a homemade remedy described in a text message would cure Ebola.
Officials at WHO believe the virus will spread further, and they called an emergency meeting of health ministers from 11 countries in the region to organize a response. Officials from the Red Cross, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union will also attend the meeting.
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