September 2014 – AFRICA – The World Health Organization has issued a terrifying warning: Ebola will claim 20,000 lives within the next six months. The virus, which is spiraling out of control in Western Africa, has already claimed 2300 lives the international health body reports. More than half of that figure has died in the past 21 days alone. Originating in Guinea earlier this year, more than 4200 people have since been sickened in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. “As soon as a new Ebola treatment facility is opened, it immediately fills to overflowing with patients, pointing to a large but previously invisible caseload,” WHO said in a statement. “Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks.” A Doctors Withour Borders statement was equally blunt, saying the virus was moving “catastrophically through the population much faster than new facilities are being created.” A surge in Ebola infections in Liberia is driving the spiraling outbreak in West Africa that is increasingly putting health workers at risk as they struggle to treat an overwhelming number of patients. A higher proportion of health workers has been infected in this outbreak than in any previous one — an alarming indicator of diseases that can turn pandemic. The latest infection was of a doctor with the World Health Organization treating patients in Sierra Leone. The organization gave no details, but an American who became infected while working in West Africa landed in the US yesterday to get treatment at Emory University Hospital.
This is the second WHO staffer to be infected in Sierra Leone, and the UN health agency said Tuesday that after an investigation of the first case, staffers battling Ebola there now have better working conditions — including larger, more private quarters. The outbreak sweeping West Africa is thought to have killed more than 2300 people, and public health experts agree that it is out of control. The disease is spreading particularly quickly in Liberia, where WHO figures published last night showed that more than 500 new cases were recorded in just one week. The organization warned that it expects thousands of new cases in the country. Sierra Leone said it is also expecting to uncover potentially hundreds of new cases during a three-day nationwide lockdown later this month. While people are confined to their homes, thousands of volunteers will go house to house to search for those infected, Sidie Yahya Tunis, a Health Ministry spokesman said last night. There are only about 570 beds in specialist Ebola treatment centers in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The WHO says at least 1000 more are needed — especially in Liberia. Health officials have said quarantine measures — including flight bans and travel restrictions to infected areas — were serving to slow the flow of medical teams, aid and protective gear.
“If (protective equipment) is worn properly, there is no risk of infection,” said Dr. David Heymann, a professor at London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Unfortunately, in the case of Ebola, a mistake can be fatal.” After a Senegalese epidemiologist with WHO working in Sierra Leone tested positive for Ebola last month, the agency conducted an investigation into how he became infected. While the agency is not releasing the results of the investigation, spokeswoman Nyka Alexander said Tuesday that staff living and working quarters in Sierra Leone have been expanded to make them less cramped and workers no longer share living space with other agencies. Changes were also made to working procedures, including more temperature checks for everyone coming into the WHO office and living quarters, Alexander said. –News