West Africa Ebola outbreak worst ever, says WHO

The death toll from the world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 603 since February, with at least 68 deaths reported from three countries in the region in the past week alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The WHO said there were 85 new cases between July 8 and 12, highlighting continued high levels of transmission of the virus. International and local medics were struggling to gain access to communities as many people feared outsiders were spreading rather than fighting Ebola.

“It’s very difficult for us to get into communities where there is hostility to outsiders,” WHO spokesperson Dan Epstein told a news briefing in Geneva. “We still face rumours, and suspicion and hostility … People are isolated, they’re afraid, they’re scared.”

Sierra Leone recorded the highest number of deaths in the past week, which include confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola, with 52. Liberia reported 13 and Guinea 3, according to WHO figures.

Epstein said the main focus in the three countries is tracing people who have been exposed to others with Ebola and monitoring them for the 21-day incubation period to see if they had been infected.


“It’s probably going to be several months before we are able to get a grip on this epidemic,” Epstein said.

Early cases
Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea and was first detected in then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the mid-1970s. Spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals, it is one of the world’s deadliest viruses, killing up to 90% of those infected.

Speaking from Havana, WHO director general Margaret Chan called the outbreak the world’s worst ever by number of cases, saying: “The situation is serious but not out of control yet.”

The WHO was mobilising political, religious and local leaders in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to create a better welcome for medical professionals attempting to treat victims, Chan said, while co-ordinating responses from the three affected countries and eight neighbours that have seen Ebola cases within their borders.

“Sometimes, the challenge for us is that countries like to do disease control their way. But I think this is one such situation where countries must come together and adopt a similar approach to deal with a very dangerous disease,” Chan said.

The organisation was consulting with anthropologists to help suspend local customs such as eating bush meat or hugging and kissing Ebola victims at their funerals, which can transmit the disease, Chan said.

The outbreak started in Guinea’s remote southeast but has spread across the region’s porous borders despite aid workers scrambling to help some of the world’s weakest health systems tackle a deadly, infectious disease.

In Sierra Leone and Guinea, experts say scores of patients are being hidden as relatives and friends believe hospitalisation is a “death sentence”. In Liberia, health workers have been chased away by armed gangs. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Daniel Trotta
Daniel Trotta works from New York, NY. Reuters correspondent covering guns, abortion, LGBT issues. Previously in Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Nicaragua. 2017 NLGJA Excellence in Transgender Coverage award Daniel Trotta has over 1472 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Women accuse aid workers of sexual abuse during the DRC’s Ebola crisis

More than 50 women have accused Ebola aid workers from the World Health Organisation...

Human health, animal health and environmental health are inextricably linked

To take care of ourselves, we must take care of the world around us

Covid-19 deepens the educational divide

With the closure of schools, learning has moved to online platforms across the world, but a UNESCO report said only 12% of households in the least-developed countries have internet access at home

The coping mechanisms the DRC is putting in place as it faces Ebola, measles and Covid-19

The DRC has systematically gone about strengthening health infrastructure, engaging the community and doing better research

Images of black death satisfy disturbing desires and purposes

The protests sweeping the United States after the latest police killing of a black man again speak to the ability of images to evoke powerful emotional responses

A brief history of anti-black violence in China

The recent news of evictions and mistreatment of African students in China during the Covid-19 pandemic is rooted in a history of violence and discrimination
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…