African Ebola Outbreak Now the Largest Ever
The death toll in the Ebola outbreak, which is threatening to sweep through the African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, now stands at 467, making it the worst ever recorded. Ministers from 11 African countries are due to meet in Accra in Ghana to try to gain agreement on how to prevent the virus spreading further.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for ‘drastic action’ in the region to stop the outbreak. The first Ebola cases in the region were registered in February and by mid-April the number had risen to 242, with a fatality rate of nearly 50%. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural hosts of the Ebola virus, which spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids. Currently no vaccine is available although several are under development.
Doctor Bart Janssens, director of operations at Doctors Without Borders, a medical charity treating Ebola patients, is concerned that the current outbreak is already out of control. “We have reached our limits,” Janssens claims. “Despite the human resources and equipment deployed in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites. Qualified medical staff need to be made available, training in how to treat Ebola needs to be organised and, contact tracing and awareness-raising activities among the population need to be stepped up. Ebola is no longer a public health issue limited to Guinea: it is affecting the whole of West Africa.”