As the largest Ebola outbreak in world history rages on, more questions and concerns about containing the virus are being raised.
During a briefing yesterday, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the outbreak in West Africa is “spiraling out of control”. He said that the international community “can control it, if we act now, but the window of opportunity is closing.”
As of August 28, Ebola has infected 3,069 people and caused 1,552 deaths, according to the CDC.
Last Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that nearly 40% of those cases occurred within the last three weeks.
The WHO also warned that this outbreak could eventually infect more than 20,000 people.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general for emergency operations, said part of the problem is that the outbreak is occurring in large cities and broad sections of the affected countries:
“What we are seeing today, in contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks: multiple hotspots within these countries — not a single, remote forested area, the kind of environments that have been tackled in the past. And then not multiple hotspots within one country, but international disease.
This far outstrips any historic Ebola outbreak in numbers. The largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases.”
Yesterday, the international group Doctors Without Borders warned that the world is losing the battle against Ebola and that treatment centers in West Africa have been “reduced to places where people go to die alone”, reports the AP:
Doctors Without Borders, which has treated more than 1,000 Ebola patients in West Africa since March, is completely overwhelmed by the disease, said Joanne Liu, the organization’s president. She called on other countries to contribute civilian and military medical personnel familiar with biological disasters.
“Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” Liu said at a U.N. forum on the outbreak. “Ebola treatment centers are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered.”
In Sierra Leone, she said, infectious bodies are rotting in the streets. Liberia had to build a new crematorium instead of new Ebola care centers.
Liu said the situation is dire in parts of West Africa, and spoke of overwhelmed isolation centers, riots breaking out over controversial quarantines, infected bodies lying in the streets, medical workers dying in shocking numbers, and entire health systems crumbling.
Dr. Daniel Bausch, a WHO-sponsored doctor who is working in Sierra Leone, described conditions to Business Insider:
“You have a very dangerous virus in three of the countries in the world that are least equipped to deal with it. The scale of this outbreak has just outstripped the resources. That’s why it’s become so big.
You have people saying they don’t have food, they don’t have water, they need their IV replaced — and you’re trying to do all of that. I need to wash my hands before I see the patients, and there might be no running water. There [is sometimes] no soap, no clean needles.”
Liu said the only way the outbreak can be contained is if governments send in biohazard teams and equipment.
From The Guardian:
“Many of the member states represented here today have invested heavily in biological threat response,” she said at the UN. “You have a political and humanitarian responsibility to immediately utilise these capabilities in Ebola-affected countries.
“To curb the epidemic, it is imperative that states immediately deploy civilian and military assets with expertise in biohazard containment. I call upon you to dispatch your disaster response teams, backed by the full weight of your logistical capabilities. This should be done in close collaboration with the affected countries. Without this deployment, we will never get the epidemic under control.”
She [Liu] said, there must be a change of approach by affected countries. “Coercive measures, such as laws criminalising the failure to report suspected cases, and forced quarantines, are driving people underground.
“This is leading to the concealment of cases, and is pushing the sick away from health systems. These measures have only served to breed fear and unrest, rather than contain the virus.”
Food shortages are also a threat, as restrictions on trade and movement are in place in the Ebola-hit countries.
A disturbing video of a patient leaving quarantine to find food at a market in Monrovia, Liberia, demonstrates the fear and desperation people are experiencing there. The video shows the man being chased and caught by doctors while onlookers watch.
Note that a woman in the video says that Ebola patients are not being fed:
“The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water. The government need to do more,” she said.
Meanwhile, another physician from the U.S. has tested positive for Ebola, reports The Washington Post:
The unnamed missionary doctor was treating obstetrics patients at the organization’s ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, and was not working with Ebola patients in the facility’s isolation unit, which is separate from the main hospital, according to a news release from the organization. He isolated himself immediately upon developing symptoms and has been transferred to the Ebola isolation unit.