UNITED NATIONS: The world is falling behind in a desperate race to stop the deadly Ebola outbreak, a top official of the United Nations (UN) warned on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) amid dire predictions that thousands of new infections are possible before year’s end.
The warning prompted the Philippines to boost measures to prevent the entry of the deadly virus.
“Ebola got a headstart on us,” said Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.
“It is far ahead of us, it is running faster than us, and it is winning the race,” the Briton
told the UN Security Council in New York, by remote link from UNMEER headquarters in Accra, Ghana.
“If Ebola wins, we the peoples of the United Nations lose so very much,” he said.
The UN official made his remarks as the World Health Organization said the Ebola infection rate could soon reach 10,000 a week as world leaders prepared to hold talks on the crisis at the UN.
“We either stop Ebola now or we face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan,” Banbury stressed.
He said with infection rates rising exponentially every day, UNMEER will need 7,000 beds for treatment.
“There’s much bad news about Ebola but the good news is we know how to stop it,” Banbury added.
But to push back the spread “we must defeat Ebola and we must do it fast,” he said.
WHO assistant director general Bruce Aylward, describing his figures as a working forecast, said the epidemic “could reach 5,000 to 10,000 cases per week by the first week of December.”
“Quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, this health crisis we face is unparalleled in modern times. The gravity of the situation is difficult to get across with just a few numbers,” Aylward told a news conference in Geneva.
The latest death toll is 4,447, from 8,914 recorded infection cases, Aylward said as the worst-ever Ebola outbreak spirals in the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
He added that the Ebola crisis, which occurred in West Africa six months ago, has now become a health sector crisis and a larger crisis of essential services in these countries.
“The disease is entrenched in the capitals, 70 percent of the people affected are definitely dying from this disease, and it is accelerating in almost all of the settings,” Aylward said.
As of Tuesday, the total number of cases attributed to Ebola virus disease in West Africa has reached 8,914, including 4,447 deaths.
Meanwhile, quarantine officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) also on Wednesday said they are ready to handle passengers suspected to be infected with the deadly virus.
According to quarantine physician Geraldyn Yangson, they already acquired personal protection equipment (PPE) such as biological masks, medical gloves, medical eyeglasses, rubber boots and rubberized coats or medical suits.
“We have the proper suits to attend to patients. The PPE just came in last August 2014 after the outbreak of Ebola in Africa,” Yangson said.
The quarantine bureau at the NAIA has three teams composed of eight nurses and a doctor as well as two ambulances that will transport Ebola patients to the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) or to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) also has 10 sets of inflatable medical tents that will be used for the processing of passengers should there be an emergency involving passengers infected with Ebola virus.
Each tent can accommodate more than 10 patients.
“In case the aircraft was contaminated by virus, we can easily isolate the plane away from the terminal, before we bring the affected passengers to the isolation room or hospital,” Airport Emergency Services Department officer-in-charge Robert Simon said.
Simon added that the MIAA also acquired personal protection equipment for its personnel.
Quarantine doctors and nurses at the NAIA had also started monitoring arriving passengers at the four terminals of the premier airport. All arriving passengers are required to fill up a health checklist to enable medical doctors to know the passengers’ travel history.
Second case in US
On Monday, US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the international campaign against the hemorrhagic virus, which is killing seven out of every ten people infected, to be intensified.
A second health worker at a Texas hospital where the first case of Ebola contamination on US soil occurred has tested positive for the disease.
Like the first case, the second concerned a caregiver who treated a Liberian Ebola sufferer who later died at the Dallas hospital, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
The second worker came down with a fever on Tuesday and was isolated at the hospital right away.
Both of the health workers had cared for Ebola sufferer Thomas Duncan, who is thought to have contracted the disease while still in Liberia, and who died on October 8.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $25-million donation to the US Centers for Disease Control Foundation to help efforts to contain the epidemic.
“Grants like this directly help the frontline responders in their heroic work,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.
The UN said efforts to help the three hardest hit countries should be doubled.
“The response to the devastating Ebola crisis is growing by the day and we must double our efforts to help the three most affected countries end this calamity,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) in Africa.
“The disease also feeds on poverty, isolation and mistrust. The response must put local communities in the lead, and make sure the most vulnerable — including survivors — are able to cope with the economic downturn and rebuild their lives,” he added.
The three countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are now expected to lose a total of $13 billion as a result of Ebola, a crisis that could still be felt for ten years after the disease has been eliminated. Officials from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have just concluded an eight-day visit to these countries, assessing the situation and aiming to boost the agency’s programs on the ground.
“We’ve seen tremendous courage at work. While regrettably many countries are closing down their borders and giving in to the stigma, the governments and people of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are working to fight back against Ebola. We must isolate the disease, not the countries,” Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Director of UNDP’s Programs and Policies, said.