On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said “drastic action is needed” if the deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is to be contained. Teams of experts have been sent to the affected areas to help locals and WHO is meeting next week to discuss ways to contain the deadly virus.
According to WHO, there have been at least 600 cases with 390 deaths since the epidemic started in March of this year. Making matters worse, there is a serious breakdown in the health care infrastructure within the affected countries, and a great deal of mistrust in the communities where workers have been sent to help.
Health care workers have been stoned, and even worse, many patients have discharged themselves from the hospital in the Kenema district, going into hiding. Rumors have been spread, with people saying the drugs used to treat patients are actually giving them the disease. In Sierra Leone, mistrust of health care workers has gotten so bad that the Health Ministry had to issue a statement saying,
“The Health Ministry wishes the general public to know that any person who obstructs or interferes with the performance of the medical team in any of the Ebola observation and treatment centers, would be guilty of an offense and liable to punishment.”
There is no cure for the Ebola disease, and it can ravage the body in less than two days, starting with a headache and fatigue, then quickly progressing with vomiting, diarrhea and finally ending with massive internal bleeding. Over half the people infected end of dying a very torturous death.
Historically, Ebola outbreaks have been confined to isolated areas, making it much easier to contain an outbreak. This time, it is different with patients located in over 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Health experts say one possible reason for the spread of the virus this time may be the proximity of the jungle where the virus ws first identified, and large cities.
Guinea’s capital city, Conakry is one example. Conakry has a population of over two million people and an international airport. People travel, and the airport can be looked at as a mode for the dispersal of the virus outside the borders of the country. It takes from two to 21 days for symptoms to appear after exposure.
Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, has worked on containing the deadly virus since the beginning of the outbreak in March. They have sent over 300 staff members and 40 tons of supplies and equipment to the region, but they say it still isn’t enough.
In a statement to CNN, they said “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.”
There are five species of the Ebola virus, and this outbreak is being caused by Zaire ebolavirus, which kills around 79 percent of the people it infects. This virus is the most deadly of the five species of Ebola. This fact, along with a struggling health care infrastructure in the three countries doesn’t bode well for containing the disease anytime soon.