Tuesday, August 26, 2014

World News: Ebola outbreak responsible for more than 1,400 deaths

The Ebola virus outbreak has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa and health officials have said it is the largest outbreak on record. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are the hardest hit countries, according to an update by the Associated Press.

Health officials with the United States are optimistic the cases in Nigeria can be handled before spreading and Liberia has the most cases and deaths. Experts have said the current outbreak has been hard to contain because doctors took a long time to identify it; it is happening in a region where people are highly mobile; it has spread to densely populated areas; and many people have resisted or hid from treatment.

The unfortunate reality of this situation is that the disease has overwhelmed already struggling health systems in Africa's poorest countries. Health officials know how Ebola spreads, it's all a matter of containing it. For example, officials in Liberia have sealed off an entire neighborhood in the capital. 

According to the latest World Health Organization figures, the Ebola outbreak has killed 1,427 people of the 2,615 sickened, the AP reported. The United Nations health agency said that an unprecedented 240 health care workers had been infected and half of those have died. The high number of infections among health workers is due to a shortage of protective gear, its improper use and a shortage of staff to treat the influx of patients.

"In normal times, we're able to mobilize teams specializing in hemorrhagic fevers, but currently we are facing an enormous epidemic in West Africa, limiting our capacity to respond to the outbreak in Equateur province," Jeroen Beijnberger, a medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, told the AP after a separate Ebola outbreak occurred over the weekend in Congo. "We need other actors to rapidly mobilize with us to help the (Congolese) Ministry of Health: We won't succeed alone."

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