• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Africa’s Ebola Crisis Hits 1,300 Cases

Ebola Virus

With one of the Americans infected with the Ebola virus headed for Emory University’s hospital as we speak, we have reached the first time that a disease that has ravaged Africa in the past is being knowingly brought to North America. By all accounts, the steps that medical professionals are taking to ensure that the disease is not spread to others during his journey or during his stay at Emory represent the height of medical technology and there is very little risk of the virus spreading to medical workers, or to the general public. The same cannot be said for the African nations that find themselves in the grip of this latest outbreak, though. According to a report this morning, there are now some 1,300 confirmed cases of the disease in these nations, making this one of the biggest Ebola outbreaks in recent memory:

ABUJA, Nigeria — In an ominous warning as fatalities mounted in West Africa from the worst known outbreak of the Ebola virus, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday that the disease was moving faster than efforts to curb it, with potentially catastrophic consequences, including a “high risk” that it will spread.

The assessment was among the most dire since the outbreak was identified in March. The outbreak has been blamed for the deaths of 729 people, according to W.H.O. figures, and has left over 1,300 people with confirmed or suspected infections.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the W.H.O. director general, was speaking as she met with the leaders of the three most affected countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — in Conakry, the Guinean capital, for the introduction of a $100 million plan to deploy hundreds more medical professionals in support of overstretched regional and international health workers.

“This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response,” Dr. Chan said, according to a W.H.O. transcript of her remarks. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.”

She said the outbreak was “caused by the most lethal strain in the family of Ebola viruses.”

The gathering in Conakry came a day after West African leaders seemed to quicken the pace of efforts to combat the disease, in what some analysts depicted as a belated acknowledgment that the response so far had been inadequate.

Before the meeting started, there were indications of discord. The leader of Guinea’s Ebola task force said that emergency measures in Liberia, where schools have been closed, and Sierra Leone could set back efforts to control the worst outbreak of the virus since it was identified almost four decades ago.

“Currently, some measures taken by our neighbors could make the fight against Ebola even harder,” Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, the Ebola task force leader, told Reuters. “When children are not supervised, they can go anywhere and make the problem worse. It is part of what we will be talking about.”

Sierra Leone’s emergency measures include house-to-house searches for infected people and the deployment of the army and the police.

One person, traveling from Liberia, died in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, which introduced airport screening of travelers from the stricken region on Thursday.

Dr. Chan said that the virus seemed to be spreading in ways never seen before.

“It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel,” she said.

Making matters worse, health workers have been hit particularly hard. Top doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia have died, and two American aid workers have contracted Ebola and were due to be flown back to the United States for further treatment at Emory University in Atlanta.

(…)

Dr. Chan said that the virus seemed to be spreading in ways never seen before.

“It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel,” she said.

Making matters worse, health workers have been hit particularly hard. Top doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia have died, and two American aid workers have contracted Ebola and were due to be flown back to the United States for further treatment at Emory University in Atlanta.

(…)

As the alarm about the outbreak has grown, so, too, have concerns that the disease will be carried farther afield by travelers from the stricken countries, despite official efforts to tamp down such fears. The African Union, for instance, announced on Friday that it was postponing a routine rotation of its peacekeeping force in Somalia for fear that new soldiers arriving from Sierra Leone could be infected.

The Philippines said Friday that it would screen travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia when they arrived and monitor them for a month. Lebanon was reported to have suspended work permits for residents of the same three countries, news reports said. Emirates, an airline based in Dubai, said it was suspending flights to Conakry as of Saturday.

The biggest concern that health experts are worried about, obviously, is the possibility that someone who is carrying the Ebola virus and is unaware of it could get on a plane and travel anywhere in the world during the time when they are most infectious to others. It isn’t as implausible as it might sound largely because, in its early stages Ebola’s symptoms are very similar to influenza and hard to detect. Fortunately, the disease differs from the flu in that it cannot be transmitted through the air, but instead requires some exposure to bodily fluids. Nonetheless, when a case of Ebola showed up in Lagos, Nigeria this week it raised alarm bells around the world.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    What concerns me most (and what I think should concern most of us) is the possibility that the spread of the disease in Africa isn’t due to poor standards of sanitation, lack of availability of healthcare, or that the Africans succumbing to the disease aren’t sicklier, less well nourished, or generally weaker than the rest of us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Ebola is not airborne, so unlike viruses like influenza, smallpox, etc. it doesn’t spread through casual contact. The transmission in Africa is largely due to a variety of technological and social factors that don’t apply in developed countries.

    As previous outbreaks of similar viruses in the US like the Reston virus or the Four Corners virus demonstrated, Ebola like viruses don’t transmit very well in our society.

    Which isn’t to say that Ebola isn’t a concern, but rather it’s not something to completely freak out over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. Tyrell says:

    One other way it is contracted is through eating certain kinds of animals that are native to those countries. This presents a problem if a lot of those people have nothing else to eat. From what I have read, this originates from animals, not people. I may be wrong about that, but it was stated that way on some sites. It is going to take a major effort to contain those populations and control travel.
    I am wondering about the direction that some of the the news may be going with this: over played and over sensationalized ?
    “Breaking news!” It usually isn’t breaking and it usually isn’t news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. PJ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Ebola is not airborne, so unlike viruses like influenza, smallpox, etc. it doesn’t spread through casual contact.

    Well, we are all living in the Jack Ryan verse.
    There’s 9/11. (Debt of Honor, crashing a jumbo jet into U.S. Capitol)
    And now there’s obviously an airborne Ebola virus (From Executive Orders which also includes a civilian jumbo jet being shot down.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    According to a report this morning, there are now some 1,300 confirmed cases of the disease in these nations, making this one of the biggest Ebola outbreaks in recent memory

    It’s the biggest. By far.

    Wikipedia has a list of Ebola outbreaks. There are 826 reported deaths in the ongoing outbreak, which is one third of all the reported deaths in the list. The current outbreak has three times as many reported deaths as the one with the second most reported deaths.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Tyrell says:

    It was reported that the person who was brought to the hospital in Atlanta, Georgia is in grave condition. Yet it was reported that he walked into the hospital. Something is wrong with that picture. People in grave condition do not just go walking around.
    We seem to be getting conflicting, and strange information. And a lack of information. I did not read anywhere a reason that he had to be brought to the US. I also read that NYC did a city wide emergency drill – without even informing the public. (Intellihub)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  7. humanoid.panda says:

    @Tyrell: Clearly, Obama is preparing to install martial law. I suggest you disconnect from the internet so that his thugs can’t hunt you down.

    Seriously, are even horrible epidemics are nothing else than another opportunity to stoke paranoia for you people?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. @Tyrell:

    I did not read anywhere a reason that he had to be brought to the US.

    Yes, why would an American with ebola want to go to the Emory University Hospital? It’s like he thinks there’s a major BSL-4 research facility on the Emory campus or something. Surely he’d rather take his chances in the world renown Nigerian medical system instead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Lounsbury says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Quite correct.

    Writing as Doug did

    By all accounts, the steps that medical professionals are taking to ensure that the disease is not spread to others during his journey or during his stay at Emory represent the height of medical technology and there is very little risk of the virus spreading to medical workers, or to the general public.

    is silly hysteria.

    The three small West African coastal countries at the heart of this outbreak: Guinea Conakry, Sierre Leone and Liberia are the worst of the worst in terms of health infrastructure. I do business in this region, and partner with a significant development in one of these.

    This is really nothing for the developed world to freak out about, at all..

    It is a concern for these countries because after, in the case of Guineau-C, forty odd years of extreme isolation under a loony dictator and in the case of the other two, decades long civil war they’ve only just begun to recover from, their own systems for response are pathetic even by local standards.

    The only concern that could arise re Ebola for developed countries is if the disease changed transmission routes. I have never read that this is even a plausible risk given its nature.

    The travel concern is really about W. Africa regional and sick persons starting a transmission chain in a megapolis like Lagos. That would be ugly.

    This presents a problem if a lot of those people have nothing else to eat. From what I have read, this originates from animals, not people

    It is not they have “nothing else to eat” – all three of the countries are well-watered, lush places. These are not Somalia. It is rather it is traditional and deeply ingrained to supplement agriculture with hunted meat (bush meat in Anglophone regional parlance).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. PJ says:

    So people in these African countries don’t trust the government, the heath care system, and they want to continue to eat what they traditionally eat.

    So…..

    Let say that scientists would find that eating something popular in the South has some sort bad effect on your health. Lets say that the Obama administration then urges people to stop eating it. Anyone want to play guess the reaction? Now, let say that the FDA would ban it….

    And then there’s the anti-vaccination idiots….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: I have read that the real problem with this outbreak is that the longer it resides in a susceptible population, the greater the chances of it’s mutating into a more easily transmittable form. Of course, I have also read that viruses tend to mutate into less deadly forms as the most successful viruses do not kill their hosts, because a live host can pass it along to more people. Either way, call me when it reaches our shores… Oh wait a minute… ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Lounsbury says:

    Well that’s really neither here nor there as (i) Ebola virus appears to be endemic in some animal reservoir in West & Central Africa (in the forest zone) and (ii) the populations in this zone are increasingly encroaching on animal reservoirs. The current outbreak is almost besides the point.

    As such, one can expect greater exposure over time to humans. Barring a magic wand to industrialize and urbanize – as well as transform the health care systems, further Ebola – human contact is a foregone conclusion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. bill says:

    the onion did a nice piece on this! not to minimize the seriousness of this virus and death toll.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/experts-ebola-vaccine-at-least-50-white-people-awa,36580/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Nicholas says:

    Veryy rapidly tɦis website ѡill ƅe famous amid
    all blogging ɑnd site-building people, ԁue tο it’s fastidious posts

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0