News / Africa

West Africa Battles Worst Ever Ebola Outbreak

Medical staff take a blood sample from a suspected Ebola patient at the government hospital in Kenema, July 10, 2014. Ebola has killed more than 1,000 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak began in February REUTERS/Tommy Trencha
Medical staff take a blood sample from a suspected Ebola patient at the government hospital in Kenema, July 10, 2014. Ebola has killed more than 1,000 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak began in February REUTERS/Tommy Trencha
VOA News

The rapidly spreading Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the deadliest ever, health officials say.

Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have reported hundreds of cases since March this year and more than 1,000 deaths. Nigeria is on high alert after the first known case was reported in Lagos. 

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

As of July 20, some 1,093 people in the region have been infected, according to the World Health Organization. At least 660 of those people have died.

Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, is bracing for an outbreak after a Liberian man hospitalized with Ebola in Lagos died last week. Liberia is closing most of its borders.

The Nigerian government is currently working to identify every person who came into contact with Patrick Sawyer during his journey from Liberia to Nigeria early last week.  Sawyer, 40, was a consultant for the country's finance ministry and he was immediately quarantined in Lagos upon arrival.

But State Heath Commissioner Jide Idris says many more people may have had contact with Sawyer than is currently known. According to Idris, the first plane Sawyer traveled on stopped briefly in Ghana before going on to Togo, where he switched planes. He said the airline has not provided a manifest for the first two flights.

Both the Nigerian health and aviation departments are still searching, but so far, Idris said they are not aware of any other potential Ebola cases.

“We call on all Nigerians to be calm and not to panic and do hereby ensure them that both the state and the federal government are up in arms to ensure that the virus does not escape and that no Nigerian is infected with this virus," he said.

Doctor infected
 

Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of July 24, 2014.Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of July 24, 2014.
x
Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of July 24, 2014.
Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of July 24, 2014.

“Ebola is an incredibly dangerous, deadly disease,” noted Melissa Strickland, spokesperson for the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse, one of whose medical doctors was struck down with the illness while caring for patients at a facility in Liberia. 

“Just a little while ago, Dr. Kent Brantly’s condition was stable,” she said.  “His fever is fluctuating.  He has body aches, pains, the typical Ebola symptoms.  He’s receiving intensive medical care from our team on the ground and we are hopeful for his recovery.”

Kent Brantly, 33, contracted the disease despite taking every precaution against it.

“Our medical personnel follow very strict protocols that were devised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization,” Strickland said.  “When they treat patients, not an inch of their body is uncovered.  They are fully covered in personal protection equipment. 

Virus origins

The first recognized cases of Ebola were identified in 1976, in Sudan and former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

Humans become infected with Ebola by close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.  

Fruit bats are believed to be the natural reservoirs of the virus, which means that they carry the virus but don’t become infected themselves.  Ebola has also been found in found in a number of African monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates in areas where so-called “bush meat” is part of the diet.  

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working together to help educate rural populations about the risks of hunting wildlife.

“We are not suggesting that people stop hunting altogether, which isn’t realistic,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth in a recent statement.

A woman walks past dried bushmeat near a road of the Yamoussoukro highway March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry GouegnonA woman walks past dried bushmeat near a road of the Yamoussoukro highway March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
x
A woman walks past dried bushmeat near a road of the Yamoussoukro highway March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
A woman walks past dried bushmeat near a road of the Yamoussoukro highway March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

“But communities need clear advice on the need not to touch dead animals or to sell or eat the meat of any animal that they find already dead. They should also avoid hunting animals that are sick or behaving strangely, as this is another red flag," he said.

Ebola can also be contracted by contact with bodily fluids of patients, which is why health care workers, traditional healers and family members are at increased risk.   Victims of the disease are still highly contagious after the death, and health workers are warning families against traditional burial practices, such as washing the body or touching it before burial.

According to the WHO, symptoms of the virus show up anywhere from two to 21 days of being exposed to the virus.  They experience fever, extreme weakness and body aches, headache, diarrhea and vomiting.  Chest pain, skin rashes, mental confusion and jaundice (yellow skin) can also occur.

Patients are contagious only after they begin to show symptoms.  Health workers will confirm an ebola diagnosis through blood tests that measure white blood cells, platelet counts, and liver enzymes.

Guarding against Ebola

“There’s no cure, there’s no medication that you can give to actually deal with the virus itself,” Strickland said.  “But what we can do is keep the patient hydrated, as comfortable as possible and as supported as possible medically to give them the best fighting chance against the disease.”

Ebola is fatal in 90 percent of the cases, though chances for survival increase with early diagnosis.

Because no treatment or vaccine exists, avoiding contamination is the best way to stop the spread of the illness.  That includes avoiding sick or dead animals, especially primates; washing hands frequently; and alerting health care workers if infection is suspected.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shut down most of Liberia’s borders Sunday, in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Ebola, and all public gatherings have been banned in that country.  Airports in the capital, Monrovia, and three major Liberian border crossings are also screening travelers.

The CDC has issued no travel restrictions for passengers to West Africa, but recommends that international visitors practice careful hygiene, avoid contact with the blood and/or body fluids of severely ill people, avoid animals and seek health care if they develop fever or other flu-like symptoms. 

Heather Murdock contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Joseph Kannah Jr from: Liberia
July 29, 2014 6:58 AM
I firstly want to express my regrets over the death of a Liberian man who died in Nigeria.
The Liberian Government has Our Government has done nothing to properly control information about Ebola as did the Nigerian Government during the death of Patrick.

People are seen going around vaccinating residents in the name of curing Ebola and our government denied any knowledge of them.\ Is it something else behind this Ebola that the Liberian Government is not willing to tell us? Or is it another attempt to extract kidneys from peaceful, and economically victimised Liberians? We want to know.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs