While the US is panicking about three Ebola cases in one month, parts of West Africa are deteriorating rapidly, with little sign that the region is getting the outbreak under control.
Ebola has hit Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone the hardest because these countries don’t have healthcare systems that are equipped to handle the disease.
Nurses at hospitals in these countries are “lightly trained and minimally protected” and Ebola patients are dying “surrounded by pools of infectious waste,” according to a report in The New York Times.
Some hospitals don’t have access to running water, soap, and clean needles, which are all crucial to controlling and preventing further spread of disease.
More than 4,000 people have died in this year’s Ebola outbreak, and most of the deaths have occurred in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. These countries are seeing “widespread and persistent” transmission of Ebola, according to the latest report from the World Health Organisation.
In total, this outbreak has seen nearly 9,000 reported cases of the disease. Nearly a third of those cases have been reported in the past 21 days. That includes infections in 427 healthcare workers, 236 of whom have died.
Here’s a look at the areas the outbreak is hitting:
Inconsistent data is also a problem — official reports of deaths and new cases often don’t match reports from health workers and first responders, according to the WHO. Officials at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that the number of actual cases might be 2.5 times the number of reported cases.
Complicating the efforts to beat back Ebola is the lack of available space to care for patients. Some are turned away at hospitals because there’s not enough room, and others are reluctant to go to a hospital at all.
A recent report in The New York Times notes that “some clinics are seen as deathtraps from which sick relatives will never return, leaving many patients to opt for taking their chances at home instead.”
Because some people afflicted with Ebola choose to stay at home rather than report to a hospital, people in their community could be exposed to the virus, furthering its spread.
Here’s a look at the fight to contain Ebola in Liberia’s capital, where the WHO notes the true extent of the disease’s spread may be even more severe than current reports suggest:
There’s a shortage of ambulances in Monrovia, so some volunteers have taken up the task of transporting sick people.
International authorities are trying to help, but money is an issue. The United Nations’ fund for Ebola hasn’t received nearly enough money, and it’s about to run out.
The US is sending 4,000 troops to help stem the spread of the disease in the region and build treatment centres, but more help is still needed.
Ebola just struck the last remaining district of Sierra Leone that remained free of the disease, and there are no treatment centres there to care for patients, according to Reuters. And there were a staggering 425 new cases that cropped up in one week between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12. in the country’s capital and neighbouring districts.
Unfortunately, conditions don’t seem to be improving. The WHO report said Ebola transmission at the epicentre of the outbreak continues to be “widespread and persistent.”
“It is clear,” the report goes on, “that the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is deteriorating.”
On Monday, WHO director Margaret Chan called the Ebola crisis “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times.”
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