The World Health Organization (WHO) released more disquieting numbers in the war against the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa that has now gone quasi-pandemic, reaching as far as the United States and Spain outside its epicenter and enveloping six nations on the African continent thus far. The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Oct. 25 that the latest figures puts the number of suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola over 10,000, with the death toll from the deadly virus reaching nearly half of that number.
WHO officials released the latest numbers Saturday, placing the total number of contraction cases at 10,141. The death toll, as it has throughout, still hovers in the 50 percent range among those infected, accounting for 4,922. And yet WHO continues to warn that the numbers are without doubt short of the true totals, noting that inaccessibility to care (such as outlying rural areas), lack of medical facilities and supplies, local superstitions, distrust of local governments, burial procedures (handling of post-mortem remains), and various other factors have undoubtedly led to far more people having contracted the virus, not to mention dying from it, and thus rendering the organization’s official numbers a mere representation of underreporting.
So far, the Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea in December, has been somewhat contained to three primary nations along Africa’s western coast — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the aforementioned Guinea. From there it had spread to Senegal, Nigeria, the United States, and Spain among contractees that first presented in those countries. But this week, Mali, which borders Senegal, Liberia and Guinea, reported its first case of Ebola — a 2-year-old child who died Friday.
Although the number of infections has passed the 10,000 threshold, that number also is somewhat misleading. Liberia’s totals remain static in the update, and given that Liberia has been the hardest hit by the epidemic, it stands to reason that the numbers reported would be somewhat higher with an update from Liberian health officials. As of Oct. 19, the last time WHO had updated numbers from Liberia, the country had well over half the reported deaths — 2,705.
But of far greater concern to WHO is what is seen as the coming flood of Ebola patients. Even though it has taken ten months for the outbreak to reach 10,000 contractees (officially), WHO announced on Oct. 14, according to CNN, that the numbers of infection cases could rise to 10,000 per week by the new year in just Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Back at the beginning of September, President Joanne Liu of Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres), the non-profit international organization that has led the fight against Ebola outbreaks for two decades, said (per Al Jazeera), “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.”
Doctors Without Borders had earlier called for an international response to the Ebola epidemic, warning that the crisis in West Africa would soon have international repercussions and infringe upon the national security of the world’s nations. The United Nations soon followed. And although slow in coming, the international community has responded — from hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the U. S. and the European Union to hundreds of medical personnel from Cuba, the U. S. and other nations around the world.
Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky of the 101st Airborne commander took command of U. S. forces in Liberia Saturday as the new on-the-ground leader of America’s response team. Troops have been building treatment facilities and ferrying in supplies in hard-hit Liberia.
“I’ve been told that by a number of people that the task we face is extremely hard. Well, a fairly famous person once said hard is not impossible,” Volesky said, according to the Associated Press. “Together, we’re going to beat it.”
Thus far, there has been only one individual that has died after presenting and being diagnosed with Ebola hemorrhagic fever outside of Africa. Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola virus on Sept. 28 died in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 8. Two nurses who treated the victim contracted the deadly virus and survived.