Ebola Biological Hazard Pandemic in Africa

 

Updated:
Sunday, 14 September, 2014 at 14:29 UTC

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Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after a failed effort to transfer her abroad for medical treatment, a government official said Sunday, a huge setback to the impoverished country that is battling the virulent disease amid a shortage of health care workers. Dr. Olivet Buck died late Saturday, hours after the World Health Organization said it could not help medically evacuate her to Germany, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brima Kargbo confirmed to The Associated Press. Sierra Leone had requested funds from WHO to transport Buck to Europe, saying the country could not afford to lose another doctor. WHO had said that it could not meet the request but instead would work to give Buck "the best care possible" in Sierra Leone, including possible access to experimental drugs. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, making doctors and nurses especially vulnerable to contracting the virus that has no vaccine or approved treatment. More than 300 health workers have become infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nearly half of them have died, according to WHO. The infections have exacerbated shortages of doctors and nurses in West African countries that were already low on skilled health personnel. So far, only foreign health and aid workers have been evacuated abroad from Sierra Leone and Liberia for treatment. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, was being considered for evacuation to a European country when he died of the disease in late July.

 

Updated:
Tuesday, 02 September, 2014 at 18:14 UTC

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A second American doctor working in Liberia has tested positive for Ebola, missionary group Serving in Mission USA is confirming, as per the AP. It’s not clear how the doctor, who was not named, contracted the virus: He was working in an obstetrics unit in a Monrovia hospital, and not in the isolation unit. He immediately isolated himself and is said to be doing well, reports NBC. SIM USA’s president, Bruce Johnson, said in a statement: "My heart was deeply saddened, but my faith was not shaken, when I learned another of our missionary doctors contracted Ebola. As a global mission, we are surrounding our missionary with prayer, as well as our Liberian SIM/ELWA colleagues, who continue fighting the Ebola epidemic in Liberia."

 

Updated:
Wednesday, 27 August, 2014 at 14:12 UTC

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A senior adviser to Sierra Leone’s president says a third doctor has died from Ebola, marking a setback in the country’s fight against the virulent disease. Presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday that Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working in a clinic in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted the virus. News of his death came as a Senegalese epidemiologist working in Sierra Leone was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. He had been doing surveillance work for the World Health Organization. Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of people sick with the virus. Health workers have been the most vulnerable because of their proximity to patients. The WHO says more than 120 health workers have died in the four affected countries.

 

Updated:
Monday, 18 August, 2014 at 08:22 UTC

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Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital’s largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients and took items including bloody sheets and mattresses. The violence in the West Point slum occurred late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, a$sistant health minister, said Sunday. Local witnesses told Agence France Presse that there were armed men among the group that attacked the clinic. "They broke down the doors and looted the place. The patients all fled," said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack and whose report was confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers a$sociation of Liberian, George Williams. Up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled at the time of the raid, said Nyenswah. Once they are located they will be transferred to the Ebola center at Monrovia’s largest hospital, he said. The attack comes just one day after a report of a crowd of several hundred local residents, chanting, ‘No Ebola in West Point,’ drove away a burial team and their police escort that had come to collect the bodies of suspected Ebola victims in the slum in the capital, Reuters reports. West Point residents went on a "looting spree," stealing items from the clinic that were likely infected, said a senior police official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. The residents took medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids including blood, vomit, feces and sweat. "All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," the official said, adding that he now feared "the whole of West Point will be infected." Some of the looted items were visibly stained with blood, vomit and excrement, said Richard Kieh, who lives in the area.
The incident creates a new challenge for Liberian health officials who were already struggling to contain the outbreak. Liberian police restored order to the West Point neighborhood Sunday. Sitting on land between the Montserrado River and the Atlantic Ocean, West Point is home to at least 50,000 people, according to a 2012 survey. Distrust of government runs high in West Point, with rumors regularly circulating that the government plans to clear the slum out entirely. Though there had been talk of putting West Point under quarantine should Ebola break out there, a$sistant health minister Nyenswah said Sunday no such step has been taken. "West Point is not yet quarantined as being reported," he said. While the armed attack is likely the most brazen attack on health workers trying to contain the deadly outbreak, it is far from the first in the region worst-hit by it. There have been numerous reports of locals attacking those trying to stop the disease by throwing stones at aid workers, blocking aid convoys and forcibly removing patients from clinics. Many locals blame foreigners for bringing the disease, saying it had never been there before they arrived. The mistrust of central government and help from outside runs deep in this part of West Africa. All three countries worst-hit by the outbreak — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea — are relatively fresh off decades of either brutal civil war or iron-fisted dictatorships. The Ebola outbreak that has k!lled more than 1,100 people in West Africa could last another six months, the Doctors Without Borders charity group said Friday. One aid worker acknowledged that the true de@th toll is still unknown. New figures released by the World Health Organization showed that Liberia has recorded more Ebola de@ths – 413 – than any of the other affected countries. Tarnue Karbbar, who works for the aid group Plan International in northern Liberia, said response teams simply aren’t able to document all the erupting Ebola cases. Many of the sick are still being hidden at home by their relatives, who are too fearful of going to an Ebola treatment center.
Others are being buried before the teams can get to remote areas, he said. In the last several days, about 75 cases have emerged in Voinjama, a single Liberian district. "Our challenge now is to quarantine the area (in Voinjama) to successfully break the transmission," he said. There is no cure or licensed treatment for Ebola and patients often die gruesome de@ths with external bleeding from their mouths, eyes or ears. The k!ller virus is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, sweat, urine and diarrhea. A handful of people have received an experimental drug whose effectiveness is unknown. Liberia’s a$sistant health minister, Tolbert Nyenswah, said three people in Liberia were receiving the ZMapp on Friday. Previously, only two Americans and a Spaniard had gotten it. The Americans are improving, but it is not known what role ZMapp played. The Spaniard died. The American doctor infected with Ebola while working in Liberia said Friday he is "recovering in every way" and holding onto the hope of a reunion with his family. Dr. Kent Brantly remained hospitalized Friday at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. His comments came in a statement issued through the Christian aid group Samaritan’s Purse. The World Health Organization has approved the use of such untested drugs but their supply is extremely limited. The U.N. health agency has said the focus on containing the outbreak should be on practicing good hygiene and quickly identifying the sick and isolating them. That task is made harder, however, by the shortage of treatment facilities. Beds in such centers are filling up faster than they can be provided, evidence that the outbreak in West Africa is far more severe than the numbers show, said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for World Health Organization in Geneva.
There are 40 beds at one treatment center that Doctors Without Borders recently took over in one quarantined county in Liberia. But 137 people have flocked there, packing the hallways until they can be sorted into those who are infected and those are not, said Joanne Liu, the group’s international president. Nyenswah described a similar situation in a treatment center in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia: In one ward meant to accommodate up to 25 people, 80 are now crowded in. Another treatment center with 120 beds is expected to open Saturday outside Monrovia. "It’s absolutely dangerous," said Liu, who recently returned from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. "With the massive influx of patients that we had over the last few days, we’re not able to keep zones of patients anymore. Everybody is mixed." Liu likened the situation to a state of war because the "frontline" was always moving and unpredictable. She said the outbreak could last six more months. The de@th toll is now 1,145 people in four countries across West Africa, according to figures released Friday by the World Health Organization. At least 2,127 cases have been reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, WHO said. Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, told journalists Friday that the country has lost two doctors and 32 nurses to Ebola. "We need specialized clinicians and expertise and that is why we are appealing to the international community for an enhanced response to our f!ght" against Ebola, he said. The Ebola crisis is also disrupting food supplies and transportation. Some 1 million people in isolated areas could need food a$sistance in the coming months, according to the U.N. World Food Program, which is preparing a regional emergency operation. Amid a growing number of airline cancellations, the U.N. will start flights for humanitarian workers on Saturday to ensure that aid operations aren’t interrupted. In the coming weeks, they will also ferry staff to remote areas by helicopter.

 

Updated:
Thursday, 14 August, 2014 at 03:27 UTC

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Guinean President Alpha Conde on Wednesday declared a deadly Ebola outbreak that has killed 377 in the west African nation a "health emergency". "The World Health Organisation has declared a global health emergency over Ebola. Considering that Guinea is a signatory to the WHO constitution I declare Ebola a national health emergency in Guinea," Conde said in a statement read on state television. He announced a series of nine measures including strict controls at border points, travel restrictions and a ban on moving bodies "from one town to another until the end of the epidemic." In addition all suspected victims will automatically be hospitalised until laboratory results are obtained, Conde said. He said all people who had been in contact with Ebola victims were "formally banned from leaving their homes until the end of their surveillance period." Anyone found in contravention of the measures would be considered "a threat to public health and will face the might of the law," the statement said, without elaborating. The current outbreak of Ebola — the worst since the disease was discovered in then-Zaire four decades ago — was first detected in Guinea at the start of the year. It has claimed 1,069 lives and infected nearly 2,000 people as it has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

 

Updated:
Tuesday, 12 August, 2014 at 14:38 UTC

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Eight Chinese medical workers who treated Ebola patients have been quarantined in Sierra Leone, as health experts grapple with ethical questions over the use of experimental drugs to combat the killer virus. China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, Zhao Yanbo, said seven doctors and one nurse who treated Ebola patients had been placed under quarantine, but would not be drawn on whether they were displaying symptoms of the disease. In addition, 24 nurses in Sierra Leone, most from the military hospital in the capital, have also been quarantined, according to Yanbo and hospital director Sahr Foday. Gripped by panic, west African nations battling the tropical disease ramped up drastic containment measures that have caused transport chaos, price hikes and food shortages. The World Health Organisation has scrambled to draft guidelines for the use of experimental medicines at a meeting in Geneva as the death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history neared 1,000. It is to present its conclusions on Tuesday.

 

Updated:
Friday, 08 August, 2014 at 03:48 UTC

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The army blockaded on Thursday rural areas in Sierra Leone that have been hit by the deadly Ebola virus, a senior officer said, after neighbouring Liberia declared a state of emergency to tackle the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

 

Updated:
Friday, 08 August, 2014 at 03:49 UTC

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a 90-day State of Emergency throughout Liberia as government steps up its fight to restrain the spread of the lethal Ebola virus disease which has now spread to eight of the country’s 15 counties. "By the virtue of the powers vested in me as President of the Republic of Liberia, I, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, and in keeping with Article 86(a) (b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, hereby declare a State of Emergency throughout the Republic of Liberia effective as of August 6, 2014 for a period of 90 days," the Liberian leader, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia announced, adding further, "Under this State of Emergency, the Government will institute extraordinary measures, including, if need be, the suspensions of certain rights and privileges." According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made this rare Declaration when she addressed the Nation late Wednesday evening, August 6, 2014, from the studios of the state broadcaster, the Liberia Broadcasting System, and the Renaissance Communications Incorporated, both in Paynesville City. As mandated by the Constitution, the Liberian leader is expected to immediately forward this Declaration of the State of Emergency to the National Legislature, accompanied by an explanation of the facts and circumstances leading to the Declaration.
President Sirleaf, who is also chair of the National Task Force on Ebola, addressing the Nation said the deadly Ebola virus now poses serious risks to the health, safety, security and welfare of the nation and beyond the public health risk, the disease is now undermining the economic stability of the country to the tone of millions of dollars in lost revenue, productivity and economic activity. Liberia is among three countries in the Mano River Union experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of the virus, the larger ever since this virus was first discovered. "The heath care system in the county is now under immense strain and the Ebola epidemic is having a chilling effect on the overall health care delivery," the Liberian leader emphasized, explaining further, "Out of fear of being infected with the disease, health care practitioners are afraid to accept new patients, especially in community clinics all across the country. Consequently, many common diseases which are especially prevalent during the rainy season, such as malaria, typhoid and common cold, are going untreated and may lead to unnecessary and preventable deaths." She pointed out that the aggregate number of cases confirmed, probable and suspected in Liberia has now exceeded 500 with about 271 cumulative deaths with 32 deaths among health care workers; noting that the death rate among citizens, especially among health workers is alarming. On measures the Government has taken so far to respond to the crisis, President Sirleaf instructed all non-essential government staff to stay home for 30 days, ordered the closure of schools, and authorized the fumigation of all public buildings, shut down markets in affected areas and have restricted movement in others, improved response time and contact tracking as well as begun coordinating with regional and international partners.
"Despite these and other continuing efforts, the threat continues to grow," she pointed out, adding that ignorance, poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices continue to exacerbate the spread of the disease especially in the counties. "The actions allowed by statues under the Public Health Law are no longer adequate to deal with the Ebola epidemic in as comprehensive and holistic as the outbreak requires," she noted. "The scope and scale of the epidemic, the virulence and deadliness of the virus now exceed the capacity and statutory responsibility of any one government agency or ministry," President Sirleaf informed the nation, stressing that the Ebola virus disease, the ramifications and consequences thereof, now constitute an unrest affecting the existence, security, and well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger. "The Government and people of Liberia require extraordinary measures for the very survival of our state and for the protection of the lives of our people."

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