News / Health

No Quick End in Sight for Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

The Arwa clinic, center,  that was closed after the clinic Doctor got infected by the Ebola virus in the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, July 15, 2014.
The Arwa clinic, center, that was closed after the clinic Doctor got infected by the Ebola virus in the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, July 15, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization says the Ebola epidemic circulating in three West African countries shows no signs of diminishing and fears it is likely to continue for many months.  Latest WHO figures put the number of cases of this deadly disease at 964, including 603 deaths. 

The deadly Ebola virus is continuing to spread in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia nearly four months after it was first detected in remote forest communities of Guinea.  There is no vaccine or cure for the virus, which is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.  

The World Health Organization reports Ebola victims in West Africa are dying at a rate of 60 percent.  WHO spokesman Dan Epstein said it probably would be several months before governments and health agencies got a grip on this epidemic and cases of the disease started going down.

“It is pretty horrifying, I think, anytime you have an epidemic that has a case fatality rate of above 50 percent where more than half the people infected die, it is horrifying.  So, of course, we are very worried and that is why we are increasing our efforts.  In terms of how long it will take, it is very hard to predict.  It depends on our success in the five important areas of epidemiology, contact tracing, education very importantly, community level participation, changing of habits of burial practices,” he said.  

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

There have been periodic outbreaks of Ebola in Africa since it was first detected in the mid-1970s in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire.  This is the first outbreak of the disease in West Africa and it is proving to be the deadliest on record.  

Since people have no experience with the disease, they do not know how the virus is transmitted.  People often refuse treatment because they are suspicious of health workers.  


Epstein said this was a huge impediment toward stopping its spread.   He said it was important to trace all people who have been in contact with an infected person in order to contain the disease.  

He told VOA it was very difficult for foreign health workers to get into communities because they were viewed with hostility, intimidated and often driven away by the residents.

“It is really kind of a matter of rumor control.  It is myths and facts.  So we have to dispel these myths about Ebola that are prevalent and that are circulating as rumors that are very damaging.  You know like the myth that foreigners are bringing Ebola to your villages or that if you go to the hospital, you will die and they will take your organs.  Or crazy bits like that are hard to dispel."

"So, it is early to say whether we are being successful, but we are certainly increasing our effort in education and social mobilization in villages in all the three countries,” he said. 

Epstein said WHO was reaching out to religious and traditional leaders for help in gaining the confidence of villagers so health workers could break this damaging cycle of suspicion and bring the epidemic to an end.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Heidi from: Santa Cruz
July 15, 2014 10:33 PM
So Gingrey from Georgia , who said he was warned by homeland security that the children from Honduras, El Salvador , and Guatemala , could carry the Ebola virus, originally came from Africa? Listen to Pope Francis. Xenophobic racism is Anti-American. Help The children, everywhere, and address the violence in Central America so they stay home in safety.
In Response

by: jerry Mcdowel from: anne arbor
July 16, 2014 6:05 AM
william branham cult is west africa is the people rsponsible for this evil disease spreading..many members have ebola and they are not telling the authorities...they have sick hidden away in south africa...we should ban this religion from coming to the EU AND USA

by: plattenfeld from: Japan
July 15, 2014 9:41 AM
Aren't there any research teams or pharmaceutical companies that are seeking to make a novel anti-viral drug that can cure Ebola virus disease?
In Response

by: Dennis from: California
July 15, 2014 12:53 PM
Yes, they are working on vaccines and drugs, but the work is very difficult, as the virus is so dangerous.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs