'Drastic action is needed' now to stop Ebola epidemic

The World Health Organization says
“drastic action is needed” to stop the deadly Ebola
virus outbreak in West Africa. It has sent teams of
experts to help locals deal with the epidemic and
WHO plans to meet next week to discuss how to
contain it.
Relief workers on the ground said the epidemic
has hit unprecedented proportions.
“The epidemic is out of control,” said Dr. Bart
Janssens, director of operations for Doctors
Without Borders.
There have been at least 600 cases and 390
deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia,
according to a WHO statement released Thursday.
That’s since the epidemic began in March,
according to the latest World Health Organization
figures.
Complicating matters, these countries have major
medical infrastructure challenges and there is a
real sense of mistrust from communities there of
the help that has been sent. In Sierra Leone and
Guinea, WHO has said that community members
have thrown stones at health care workers trying
to investigate the outbreak.
In April, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr.
Sanjay Gupta traveled to Conakry, Guinea, to
report on what was being done to treat patients
and contain the outbreak.
“It took only moments to feel the
impact of what was happening
here,” Gupta wrote after landing
in Conakry. “There is a lot we
know about Ebola, and it scares
us almost as much as what we
don’t know.”
Ebola outbreaks usually are
confined to remote areas,
making the disease easier to
contain. But this outbreak is
different; patients have been
identified in 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone
and Liberia.
Officials believe the wide footprint of this outbreak
is partly because of the proximity between the
jungle where the virus was first identified and
cities such as Conakry. The capital in Guinea has a
population of 2 million and an international
airport.
People are traveling without realizing
they’re carrying the deadly virus. It can
take between two and 21 days after
exposure for someone to feel sick.
Ebola is a violent killer. The symptoms, at
first, mimic the flu: headache, fever,
fatigue. What comes next sounds like
something out of a horror movie:
significant diarrhea and vomiting, while
the virus shuts off the blood’s ability to
clot.
As a result, patients often suffer internal
and external hemorrhaging. Many die in
an average of 10 days.
Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins
Sans Frontières, has been working to fight the
epidemic since March. The group has sent more
than 300 staff members and 40 tons of
equipment and supplies to the region to help fight
the epidemic.
Still, the group warns, it’s not enough.
“Despite the human resources and equipment
deployed by MSF in the three affected countries,
we are no longer able to send teams to the new
outbreak sites.”
The good news is that Ebola isn’t as easily spread
as one may think. A patient isn’t contagious —
meaning they can’t spread the virus to other
people — until they are already showing
symptoms.
Serious protective measures
ins!de the isolation treatment areas in Conakry,
doctors focus on keeping the patients hydrated
with IV drips and other liquid nutrients. Health
officials have urged residents to seek treatment at
the first sign of flu-like symptoms.
There is no cure or vaccine to treat Ebola, but MSF
has shown it doesn’t have to be a death sentence
if it’s treated early. Ebola typically kills 90% of
patients. This outbreak, the death rate has
dropped to roughly 60%.
The outbreak will be considered contained after
42 days — twice the incubation period — with no
new Ebola cases.

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