Friday, August 15, 2014

Ebola outbreak moving faster than medics can handle

GENEVA (AFP) – The Ebola
outbreak that has claimed more
than 1,000 lives in west Africa is
moving faster than aid
organisations can handle, the
medical charity MSF said Friday.

The warning came a day after
the World Health Organization
said the scale of the epidemic
had been vastly underestimated
and that "extraordinary
measures" were needed to
contain the killer disease.
The UN health agency said the
death toll from the worst
outbreak of the disease in four
decades had now climbed to
1,069 in the four afflicted
countries, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria
and Sierra Leone.

"It is deteriorating faster, and
moving faster, than we can
respond to," MSF (Doctors
Without Borders) chief Joanne
Liu told reporters in Geneva,
saying it could take six months to
get the upper hand.
"It is like wartime," she said a
day after returning from the
region where she met political
leaders and visited clinics.

WHO said Thursday it was
coordinating "a massive scaling
up of the international response"
to the epidemic.
"Staff at the outbreak sites see
evidence that the numbers of
reported cases and deaths vastly
underestimate the magnitude of
the outbreak," it said.
The latest epidemic erupted in
the forested zone straddling the
borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone
and Liberia, and later spread to

WHO declared a global health
emergency last week — far too
late, according to MSF, which
months ago warned that the
outbreak was out of control.
Liu said while Guinea was the
initial epicentre of the disease,
the pace there has slowed, with
concerns now focused on the
other countries.

"If we don't stabilise Liberia, we'll
never stabilise the region," Liu
Concerns have also centred on
the Nigerian cases, which are in
Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa's
largest city.

"Right now we have no past
experience with in urban
setting," said Liu.
- Athletes barred -
As countries around the world
stepped up measures to contain
the disease, the International
Olympics Committee said athletes
from Ebola-hit countries had
been barred from competing in
pool events and combat sports at
the Youth Olympics opening in
China on Saturday.

The decision, which affects three
unidentified athletes, was made
"with regard to ensuring the
safety of all those participating"
in the Games in the city of
Nanjing, the IOC and Chinese
organisers said.
No cure or vaccine is currently
available for Ebola, which the
WHO has declared a global public
health emergency.
It has also authorised the use of
largely untested treatments in
efforts to combat the disease.
Hard-hit nations are awaiting
consignments of up to 1,000
doses of the barely tested drug
ZMapp from the United States,
which has raised hopes of saving

Canada says between 800 and
1,000 doses of a vaccine called
VSV-EBOV, which has shown
promise in animal research but
never been tested on humans,
would also be distributed
through the WHO.
MSF's Liu warned against
focusing on drugs.
"In the short term, they're not
going to help that much, because
we don't have many drugs
available. We need to a get a
reality check on how this could
impact the curve of the
epidemic," she said.
The last days of an Ebola victim
can be grim, characterised by
agonising muscular pain,
vomiting, diarrhoea and
catastrophic haemorrhaging
described as "bleeding out" as
vital organs break down.

The cost of tackling the virus is
also threatening to exact a
severe economic toll on the
already impoverished west
African nations hit by the
In Nigeria, in particular, a more
serious outbreak could severely
disrupt its oil and gas industry if
international companies are
forced to evacuate staff and shut
local operations, rating agency
Moody's warned.

- 'Hostility to health workers' -
Sierra Leone's chief medical
officer Brima Kargbo this week
spoke of the risks facing health
workers fighting the epidemic,
which has killed 32 nurses since
May as well as an eminent doctor,
of a total of more than 330
"We still have to break the chain
of transmission to separate the
infected from the uninfected,"
Kargbo said.

In Liberia, which has recorded
more than 300 deaths, work has
begun on expanding a treatment
centre in Monrovia — one of only
two such clinics in the country of
4.2 million.
Across the region, draconian
restrictions have been imposed
and a number of airlines have
cancelled flights in and out of
west Africa.
Guinea, where at least 377
people have died, became the
latest country to declare a health
emergency, ordering strict
controls at border points and a
ban on moving bodies from one
town to another.

Although the WHO confirmed
that other African countries,
including Kenya, were labelled

Reference: Vanguard

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