GENEVA: Over 900 people have died and more than 1,700 have been infected since the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa in February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.
Between August 2 and 4 alone, 108 new Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases were registered, and 45 people died. These figures included not only laboratory confirmed cases but also suspicious ones.
The largest number of deaths was reported in Guinea, where 363 people have died and 495 have been infected. In Sierra Leone, 286 people have died; in Liberia, 282.
In Nigeria, which is relatively far from these three countries and is the most densely populated state in Africa, only one EVD death has been registered and nine people have been infected, even though none of these cases has been confirmed in laboratory.
The Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) was first reported in 1976 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and got its name from the river near which the first outbreak occurred.
It is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has recently visited Guinea and held high-level meetings with the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to review the status of the Ebola epidemic and adopt common strategies to eradicate Ebola from the sub-region.
“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination. The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward,” she said.
Chan announced a large-scale response plan to fight the Ebola outbreak. The emergency relief fund is about USD 30 million and another USD 70 million are expected to come from donor countries, organiZations and individuals.
Key elements of the new plan include strategies to stop transmission of Ebola virus disease in the affected countries through scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures; and to prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease to the neighboring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures.
“WHO and affected and neighboring countries will renew efforts to mobilize communities and strengthen communication so that people know how to avoid infection and what to do if they fear they may have come into contact with the virus,” the organization said.
The plan also calls for sending hundreds of medical specialists to West African countries impacted by the disease. According to WHO, hundreds of doctors and more than 120 of its specialists are already working on the ground, and about 60 doctors have died from the Ebola virus disease.
The WHO emergency committee has been in meeting since August 6 to discuss the situation and assess the scale of the threat from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The purpose is to decide whether its outbreak is an international health emergency or not. If experts decide that it is, they will make a number of recommendations. The final conclusions will be made on Friday. PNA