Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is in turmoil following a family’s forced removal of a deadly Ebola virus patient from the rundown Harmon Road Hospital last week.
Last weekend, the patient was returned to hospital and died in the ambulance.
*Ebola Update: July 30, 2014*
Ebola Outbreak Around the World
Ebola, a haemorrhagic disease, has killed some 700 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the World Health Organisation.
Sierra Leone is fighting the world’s largest outbreak of Ebola virus disease. Freetown’s crowded slums are a fertile breeding ground for rampant infectious diseases including cholera which killed hundreds in 2012.
A senior doctor treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone tested positive for the virus and is being treated at a field hospital staffed by Medecins Sans Frontieres in a jungle clearing in the Kailahun district where they have reduced the normal mortality rate of 90% down to 60%. At least 12 staff members of Kenema Hospital, Freetown have died of Ebola.
Nigeria confirmed its first fatal case after a Liberian man collapsed in Lagos airport and died in hospital after testing positive.
How Do You Get Ebola?
Ebola is passed on through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, even after the person has died. The virus initially causes fever and vomiting and internal and external bleeding. Ebola kills 90% of those infected. There is no cure – but treatment of Ebola symptoms may improve a victim’s chance of recovery.
Safety Protocols are Essential to Control Ebola
A highly-regimented safety protocol is essential to prevent the spread of Ebola in hospitals. Protective clothing for health workers is not enough to protect medical workers, visitors, or the general public.
It appears to be impossible to contain this outbreak, because the population does not respond to normal treatment protocols.
Patients do not visit doctors for suspected Ebola – most people with feverish illnesses in Sierra Leone are treated at home, which means it is difficult to determine the true extent of the outbreak.
In order to mitigate the damage, isolation wards, disease monitoring, appropriate protective equipment, improved communication, and border controls are absolutely necessary.
- Isolation wards at remote locations are essential. The remote villages of Sierra Leone, where denial, fear and rumours are aiding the spread of the disease, also prevent its victims from seeking medical help. Villagers bury infected corpses while neglecting to protect themselves. Exposed bodies pass on the virus to healthy people, thereby perpetuating the disease.
- Disease monitoring in the region is inadequate in the many scattered highland villages. The dire shortage of medical personnel means that they have little access to basic personal protective equipment, and doctors are reluctant to provide direct care for patients suspected of having Ebola.
- Access to personal protective equipment in health-care centers is vital for containing the disease.
- It is critical to implement disease control policies restricting border crossings.
- Improved communication by health officials with the media, community leaders, health professionals, and the general public is necessary to reduce misinformation and improve compliance with prevention and control measures that have been proven effective.
This 2014 Ebola Virus Outbreak is Different from the Usual Scattered, Rural, Self-Contained Disease
The scale of this outbreak is different from previous outbreaks. There have been some 700 fatalities in 2014 – a huge increase from the 20 Ebola fatalities in Uganda in 2012.
The main West African teeming urban centers of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monrovia, Liberia, Conaky, Guinea and more recently Lagos, Nigeria are now centers where NGOs (Non Government Organisations) like Concern and MSF step in to control the outbreak before it spreads internationally. The situation is chaotic, however international agencies can help control the Ebola outbreak, and could even use mobile phones to aid surveillance of the disease.
Tempted to think that the Ebola outbreak couldn’t cause a problem in the United States and the rest of the world? International air routes link major West African cities to the U.S. – this Ebola outbreak is everyone’s problem.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.