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Ebola Virus Spreads Beyond Control Needs Help



Ebola spreads faster than it can be controlled and the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more health workers to contribute their efforts for the affected. The number of cases reported in West Africa is growing by the day and countries as far away as Cuba have stepped in to help, as the WHO called for more assistance. With the Ebola virus spreading beyond control, Margaret Chan from the WHO in Geneva called for much needed help in West Africa.

Of the known 4,784 cases that are reported to be affected by the Ebola virus epidemic, the death toll rose to 2,400. This prompted Margaret Chan, the director of WHO to call for health workers to assist the victims in the three worst hit regions in West Africa – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The regions are in desperate need of a major medical response are being advised to use plastic bags or whatever is in their means to protect themselves when dealing with affected members of the family.

In a phone conversation with Reuters from Monrovia, Sarah Crowe, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, said that they had to come up with innovative ways to avoid risking an infection when treating their sick family members. With the three known Ebola centers full of patients, homes are being turned into private isolation wards with unaffected family members taking on the roles of nurses or health workers.

With Ebola taking over Liberia, Crowe says most Liberians feel abandoned since much needed help is nowhere in sight. The Ebola survivors, now immune to contracting the virus again, are providing care to almost 2,000 children who have lost one or two parents to Ebola in Liberia alone.

According to Chan, people power is the key to beating Ebola. While pledges of financial support and equipment were pouring in, at least 1,000 health workers and around 600 foreign medical experts were needed in West Africa to beat the virus. As reported earlier, the rapid increase in the number of cases forced a four-fold surge in the amount of health care professionals just to catch up with it.

Chan acknowledged that the reported death toll is an underestimate, since mostly health workers made up the 2,400 reported dead. Increased exposure to the virus contributed to the high number of deaths reported among health workers. Of the 301 health workers in West Africa, at least half have succumbed to Ebola, forcing WHO to ask for even more health care professionals. Several Americans, a British national and two Dutch doctors who were infected with the Ebola virus, are all being evacuated from West Africa to be treated.

Responding to Chan’s request for other countries to step in to help, Cuba offered to send 165 healthcare workers, the largest foreign contingent so far, to Liberia. The contingency of doctors and nurses are expected to arrive in Sierra Leone in October, although the numbers in Liberia are expected to rise in the next few weeks.

Peter Piot, a scientist and a leading Ebola specialist, who helped identify Ebola in 1976, added his voice to Chan’s as she asked for help. Piot, who is now the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found it difficult to track the spread of Ebola given the exponential rate it increased in.

Piot, who fears that the numbers may double in the coming weeks, attributes the rate to the fear and lack of trust in health authorities. With most centers reaching their full capacity, large numbers of people have gone untreated, making it difficult to track the spread and allocate the necessary resources. WHO earlier predicted that there would be close to 20,000 cases of Ebola in the region before the spread of the virus was brought under control.

The medical care provided thus far has provided positive signs of controlling the spread. For over three weeks, there have been no new cases of Ebola reported in four districts in Guinea and just one in Liberia and three in Sierra Leone. That brings the count to a total of eight unaffected districts in West Africa. 67 people who came in contact with the virus in Senegal have been traced, but so far none have tested positive.

The Ebola virus spread in Liberia is now beyond control, demanding international assistance. The difficulties that Liberia faces have caused comparisons to be made to the difficult times the region faced during the civil wars in 1989 and 2003. It is estimated that financial growth will be slowed down by 3.5 percent in Liberia, making recovery an equally painful process one the viral spread is controlled

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan.

The Washington Post
The New York Times

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