West Africa has seen a major increase in cases of the deadly Ebola virus that was detected in the region in January and has spiked in the last two weeks.
West Africa has seen a major increase in cases of the deadly Ebola virus that was detected in the region in January and has spiked in the last two weeks. It has already claimed up to 337 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The virus is the worst in Guinea where it has already claimed 264 lives. The medical aid charity Doctors Without Borders warned that the region faces an Ebola epidemic “of a magnitude never before seen”, after cases were found in Guinea´s capital city of Conakry a couple of weeks ago. Since then, 70 cases and 33 deaths have been reported in Conakry.
Experts say that an outbreak in the capital could pose the biggest threat since Conakry is a major international hub in the country, which increases its chances of spreading outside of the region.
The virus erupted in Guinea in January and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone soon afterwords. In Liberia there have been 33 cases and 24 deaths, according to figures released today by the World Health Organization.
This Tuesday, Liberia also reported its first cases of Ebola-related deaths in its capital city of Monrovia. Seven people died, including a woman and a baby who had just come from Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone there have been 97 cases of Ebola and 49 deaths, according to the WHO. Most cases have been found in the country´s eastern regions of Kailahun and Kenema, along the border with Guinea.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever that includes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and in severe cases causes organ failure and unstoppable internal bleeding. Currently there is no cure.
According to the WHO, the virus kills between 25 and 90% of those infected.
“It’s very fast and it’s furious, that’s exactly how we can sum up Ebola,” said Dr. Unni Krishnan, the head of Disaster Preparedness and Response for the children´s NGO Plan International.
“Once you are infected, it takes a very short time. The immune system collapses, and then it attacks every organ in the body. That’s when the kidneys and other organs start failing, there is internal bleeding, the whole system collapses... and it all happens in a very short time.”
This is not the first major Ebola outbreak in Africa (it hit Sudan in 1976, Uganda in 2000 and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2007), however it is the first time it’s been seen in the Western region of the continent.
Experts say that strengthening the communications systems in the region is essential to containing the spread of the disease further and preventing contamination.
“It’s important to strengthen both, to have a strong public health system with a good backup of public broadcasting information system. Together we can win the battle against Ebola to a great extent,” said Dr. Krishnan.