News / Health

WHO: Ebola Spread Outpaces Control Effort

Ebola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak response
Ebola, labs worldwide, diagnostic and outbreak response
Lisa Schlein

The head of the World Health Organization has told the presidents of West African nations stricken by Ebola that the outbreak is moving faster than efforts to control it.

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, says if the outbreak continues to worsen, the consequences could be "catastrophic" in terms of lost lives and socio-economic disruption.

Chan is in Conakry, where she met Friday with the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.

WHO and the West African leaders are finalizing a $100 million plan to fight the spread of Ebola, which has claimed nearly 730 lives.  Chan said more than 60 health workers are among the victims, and that some international relief workers have been infected.

Ebola cases and deaths, as of July 27, 2014Ebola cases and deaths, as of July 27, 2014
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Ebola cases and deaths, as of July 27, 2014
Ebola cases and deaths, as of July 27, 2014

The WHO chief said her hope is the plan emerging from the Conakry meeting will mark "a turning point" in the international response to the outbreak.

Several hundred medical personnel are about to be deployed to West Africa, Chan said, and an emergency committee will meet on Wednesday to assess the international implications of the outbreak.

Unprecedented

Referring to the scale of the ongoing Ebola outbreak as unprecedented, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told VOA the outbreak is probably worse than the figures indicate.
 
“There could well be cases in the community that we have missed because this has been one of the biggest challenges in terms of also tracing contacts," Hartl said. "People run away.  They do not want to be treated in the health centers.  They are afraid or they do not believe that the health centers can do them any good, so they try to be treated by their families and they get sick and die there.”
 
Hartl says key elements of the emergency plan are to stop transmission of the Ebola virus and to prevent the spread of the disease to neighboring at-risk countries by strengthening and scaling up all control and response measures. 
 
Challenges

He calls this a huge undertaking and says 600 more people are needed in the field to carry it out.

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“The biggest challenge of this outbreak has been the fact that there are so many different centers of transmission," Hartl said.  "And, at every center of transmission you need a full team of clinical specialists, of infection control specialists, of logisticians, of lab people, of community communicators, of epidemiologists who go out and trace contacts.”
 
According to Benoit Carpentier, spokesman for the International Red Cross Federation, identifying people infected with Ebola and tracing those who have come in contact with them is a mammoth task.
 
“If one person that is contaminated gets into contact with 20 other people, then you have got 20 people you need to follow up for 21 days," Carpentier said.  "And, if these 20 people get in contact with 20 others-you see how it gets exponential very, very quickly.”
 
Incubation period

Ebola has an incubation period of between two and 21 days.  It is spread through contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.  There is no cure and fatality rates can be as high as 90 percent.  But, health officials stress people who seek treatment at a clinic as soon as they fall ill have a better chance of survival.
 
Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external hemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.
 
Some 2,400 volunteers from the International Red Cross Federation have been working in the three infected countries since the Ebola epidemic started.   Carpentier says it is this message of hope that Red Cross volunteers are trying to communicate.
 
“We have a good example of a person in Guinea that was infected and survived and he is now a Red Cross volunteer and he goes from community to community to actually pass these messages…of hope," he noted.
 
Slow initial response

West African leaders were initially slow to react to the outbreak.  They now are taking extraordinary measures to contain the disease.  Liberia has closed its schools, ordered non-essential public servants to stay home from work and closed its borders.  Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine Ebola victims.
 
Hartl says it is too soon to know whether these measures will be successful.
 
“But, certainly, it is very good that these countries are thinking along the lines of the fact that something extraordinary needs to be done…I think what we need to do is look at any and all measures, which are taken in the light of will they help bring the outbreak under control," he said.

  • An employee of the Monrovia City Corporation sprays disinfectant along the streets to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014.
  • An employee of the Monrovia City Corporation mixes disinfectant before spraying it on the streets to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014. 
  • An employee of the Monrovia City Corporation sprays disinfectant inside a government building to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, Monrovia, Liberia,  August 1, 2014. 
  • Liberian soldiers walk through the streets to prevent panic as fears of the deadly Ebola virus spread in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014. 
  • Liberian soldiers walk through the streets in an attempt to control public fears of the deadly Ebola virus, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014.
  • An Ebola public awareness campaign utilitzes a billboard with the face of Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Monrovia, Liberia, July 31, 2014. 
  • A Liberian military police truck with information on the prevention of Ebola patrols through the city, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014. 
  • Liberian soldiers patrol the streets on foot and in vehicles to help prevent panic, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014.
  • Liberian soldiers in a medical truck with a posted sign on it that reads 'Ebola Must Go,' as it drives around the city to help prevent panic, Monrovia, Liberia, August 1, 2014. 
  • Center for Disease Control photo showing an Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent intended for Ebola air transportation, July 31, 2014.

On alert

In Nigeria Friday, authorities closed a mortuary in southern Anambra State and quarantined the staff in a new Ebola alert. Health officials suspect a Nigerian man whose body is at the facility died of Ebola after being infected in Liberia. 

U.S. health authorities are warning against travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  But, the World Health Organization does not endorse a travel ban.
 
It also advises against border closures saying they might be helpful, but are not foolproof.  The U.N. health agency says the best way to tackle Ebola and to stop the outbreak is to put the necessary measures in place at the source of the infection.

WATCH: Related video report by Mary Alice Salinas

West Africa Ebola Deaths Top 725, US Issues Travel Warningi
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August 01, 2014 11:16 AM
The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola deaths in four West African countries now tops 725. The United States is warning travelers to avoid any non-essential trips to hardest-hit countries, as health officials race to contain the virus. VOA's Mary Alice Salinas has the latest from Washington.

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Comments
     
by: Rev Ilonzo Ikechukwu from: Misionary
August 03, 2014 5:28 AM
My suggestion,though I don't know the cost; W.H.O is doing their best at least the money maped out now after the meeting in conakry Guinea will help to start doing something. My suggestion is, Let everybody surrender himself for medical test. Goverment should put this as must and use force on it since we Africans use to do right things with force. If anyone is positive,goverment will take care of that person until he or she suvrived or die no matter numbers of the people. This it stop outbreak of ebola virus.


by: Memenatu from: Koroma
August 02, 2014 8:33 AM
In my opinion, the best way to combat and eradicate Ebola is to give the present best vaccine now. Alternatively, the drugs to suppress the Ebola virus should be given out immediately even though they are not widely known. This was done for HIV and recently the cure for AIDS is here. 'WHO and the West African leaders are finalizing a $100 million plan to fight the spread of Ebola, which has claimed nearly 730 lives in West Africa.' So, a discussed percentage of the fund could be used to help obtain these drugs and share them with infected persons in order to halt this deadly disease that could become a pandemic. The drugs are BCX4430, ZMab, Draco and Favipiravir.


by: mcstar from: NC
August 01, 2014 6:56 PM
I truley can not believe that the CDC thinks it is safe to bring a person with Ebola to the United States. Quarantined or not, leave that mess over in Africa! We are definitely nearing the end of times!


by: Nina from: Texas
August 01, 2014 5:25 PM
I feel that it is a terrible mistake bringing these people back to the US. I realize they are saying that all preventative measures will be taken. But the risk factor still comes into play.We are all human and being mere mortals, tend to make mistakes,big and small. It only takes one time mishandling of this to cause a horrible spread in this nation.. Just too risky...


by: Dwight Muntzer from: indiana
August 01, 2014 12:59 PM
The World better wake up the demon is at the door.


by: meanbill from: USA
August 01, 2014 12:50 PM
REMEMBER when the medical experts told the world in 1981 that AIDS wouldn't become a worldwide epidemic, if you practiced safe sex?... (and now), those same medical experts say, (that EBOLA is the deadliest of all diseases, and is easer to contact and spread), but the odds of EBOLA spreading into a worldwide epidemic is extremely remote?...... Yea, we can believe them can't we?.... how any millions of people have AIDS worldwide?


by: Richard Mc from: North Carolina
August 01, 2014 10:20 AM
I was wondering when someone was going to try to get on top of this.

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