AFRICA – The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is distinctly different from any over the last 40 years, several public health officials said Monday, making it far more challenging to control.
As of Friday, 3,944 people had been confirmed infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal since December, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has admitted that it is likely under-counting cases. More than half of the victims have died.
The epidemic is growing exponentially in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, and a WHO doctor was evacuated from Sierra Leone Monday after coming down with the virus, the organization said Monday. The WHO declined to release any details about the sick doctor.
In Liberia, where nearly 2,000 people have been diagnosed, “the number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them,” according to a news release from the WHO.
One treatment center set up to manage 30 patients had more than 70 demanding treatment as soon as it opened, the release said. It takes about 200-250 medical personnel to safely manage 70 Ebola patients, WHO officials have said.
Healthcare workers have been extremely hard-hit by the fast-moving epidemic, with more than 240 infected across the region. There were hardly any doctors in Liberia, population 4.4 million, when the outbreak began, so “every infection or death of a doctor or nurse depletes response capacity significantly,” according to the WHO release.
How did the outbreak get so far out of control? Several factors created a “perfect storm” of disaster, said Barbara Knust, a virologist and veterinarian with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (read more)