News / Africa

WHO: Ebola Outbreak 'Vastly Underestimated'

WHO: Ebola Crisis 'Vastly Underestimated'i
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 16, 2014 3:06 PM
The World Health Organization now says the Ebola crisis that has struck West Africa and taken more than 1,000 lives has been "vastly underestimated." In addition, the Doctors Without Borders humanitarian group says the crisis is likely to last at least another six months. Zlatica Hoke has more on the fight to contain the deadly disease.
Video report by Zlatica Hoke
Anne Look

World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Thursday warned the magnitude of the Ebola outbreak had been "vastly" underestimated.

The U.N. agency said 1,069 people have died of Ebola this year in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The total number of cases is estimated at just under 2,000, but some public health experts, including Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), say many cases are going unreported as patients resist hospitalization and isolation wards, preferring to entrust their care to family members instead.

WHO officials also said in a Thursday statement that they share concerns that current numbers do not reflect the true gravity of the situation. Liberia and Sierra Leone, the two hardest hit countries so far, have reported at least 182 new cases in the past week, and public health authorities in affected countries say additional resources are desperately needed as they scramble to stop the spread of the disease and isolate those already infected.

In Liberia's capital, Monrovia, MSF is building its largest Ebola treatment center yet, which will have 120 beds. MSF also runs a treatment unit in the northern border town of Foya, in Lofa County.

The group’s emergency coordinator, Lindis Hurum, said it is still not enough. 

“Unfortunately, neither of these two units will be sufficient to cover for the need to isolate and care for the patients," she said. "At this stage the outbreak is totally out of control and we need to come up with other strategies to cope with the situation."

Lofa and Montserrado counties are among the hardest hit in Liberia, where health ministry officials are rolling out a new strategy to manage the high volume of suspected cases in those districts. Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyensuah says health workers will go to the patients, instead of the other way around, 

"If there are too many patients in the community, we can move them to a community structure like a school building [to] provide mattresses, provide feeding, provide hygiene kits to them and health promotion kits that we can manage the people until they can transition to a treatment unit,” he said.

In August, both Liberia and Sierra Leone enacted emergency rule and quarantined the most affected districts. Security forces have set up roadblocks and shut borders.

In the Kenema district of Sierra Leone, security forces have stopped movement in or out, measures that residents call drastic. Locals say the restricted mobility and flow of goods is pushing up food prices, but that they are also necessary and overdue.

“When the first time we heard about Ebola, if the measures that are in place now was in place, I want to believe we should have not reached the peak we are presently in,” said one Kenema resident who withheld her identity.

Complexities of containment

Public health officials say an Ebola outbreak can be contained, but that it must to be snuffed out like a forest fire. No embers can be left to burn, and authorities must isolate both confirmed and suspected cases, after which they must then monitor everyone who may have been exposed to a patient’s bodily fluids for 21 days, Ebola's incubation period.

If any one of those people shows symptoms, they too must go into isolation.

But implementing this procedure is easier said than done. Nigeria, for example, has been monitoring nearly 200 contacts related to just one confirmed case, the country’s first, an air traveler from Liberia who died in Lagos in late July.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, even as quarantine measures have slowed the large-scale movement of people outside their communities, authorities say the sheer number of cases and contacts to trace is overwhelming.

Sierra Leone’s health minister, Miatta Kargbo, says they need more logistical support.

“We need ambulances. We need vehicles for contact tracing and surveillance," she said. "You may have the funds but the ambulances are not available. This is a challenge that we do have. The logistical support, what is needed to support the fight against Ebola, needs to come faster than we’re seeing from the international community.”

Public health experts say it will likely be months before the outbreak is over. Never have there been so many cases of Ebola in so many places at once.

Dr. Liu, international head of Doctors Without Borders, said Friday that Liberia remains a particular problem. She said stabilizing the outbreak there is key for the whole region.

Adam Bailes contributed to this report from Freetown, Prince Collins contributed from Monrovia and Patrick Jackema from Kenema, Sierra Leone.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: yataro from: Japan
August 17, 2014 2:45 AM
Ebola outbreak must be underestimated because to report the case of Ebola leads tragedy for example, losing their house as the movie shows, making their family's life worse.
But making sure the exact number of case and stopping the outbreak of Ebola is really important even some people feel sad.

by: Not Again from: Canada
August 16, 2014 11:32 AM
WHO failed in a massive way to get preventive measures and take effective action to rapidly coordinate and raise the alarm over the Ebola sit in Western Africa, in the early stages of this epidemic. People in charge at WHO have demonstrated poor leadership, they need to be replaced = fired. For months Doctors Without Borders were raising the alarm and were requesting help, all of it to no avail, WHO failed to perform as it should have, those in charge FAILED!
The more human hosts the virus infects, the more the likelyhood that it will mutate and it will become easier to spread. Ebola is out of control, and the fact that people in the affected areas are still clamoring for resources, is indicative that it is nowhere near any potential control. The fact that there are still many, in the affected populations, that do not understand the issue of segregation/ full isolation of the patients, indicates that the necessary educational measures have not been udertaken, or worse that the educational campaign is ineffective.
The chances/possibility of controlling the spread of Ebola, without a clear understanding and cooperation of the affected population is ZERO. Far more needs to be done to ensure the population understands, accepts, and complies with the isolation requirements of potential patients/affected victims.
A regional medical crisis organization needs to be established, with adequate resources, to coordinate and lead the information and educational campaign against Ebola; the campaign needs to be addressed to all the regional tribes and extend into the remote areas/hinterlands of the affected regions and beyond.
In my view, this Ebola epidemic is nearing or maybe it has reached the point of continued active sustainability in the human population = it will continue to expand until such time as an effective vaccine is deployed and the majority of the population is fully vaccinated in the regions in which Ebola has spread. This Ebola epidemic will have a very negative impact on the economies of the region and on regional stability.

by: David Kent from: Florida, USA
August 16, 2014 12:16 AM
Historically, most Ebola outbreaks have around 300 infections, although one had around 400. The current outbreak has around 2000. This one has the potential to be a worldwide epidemic. The Reston, VA virus resulted in the whole Lab being incased in cement. Scientists were afraid that one had gone airborne, although they were mistaken.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs