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Ebola flare up in West Africa

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13 June 2014 - An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has flared up again. The virus began to spread to new areas of Guinea, where over 200 Ebola-related deaths now have been confirmed. Nine further deaths have been reported in Liberia and 12 more in Sierra Leone.

Officials blame the resurgence on ignorance and a lack of experience in handling the virus. Ebola is appearing in countries in West Africa that have never witnessed it before and who do not have established response mechanisms.

The view amongst experts in recent weeks had been that the outbreak in West Africa, which likely began in December, but was first identified in March, was beginning to slow. But that optimism has faded with the resurgence of new cases across West Africa.

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), previously known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF) has typically struck in east or central African countries. Ebola is highly contagious and up to 90 percent fatal. There is no vaccine and, while treatment can improve the chances of survival of those infected, there is no cure.

13778453044 a25bf835b1 mAccording to WHO statistics, between 1976 and 2012, EVD caused around 1,600 deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, in this case the majority of the 430 plus suspected or confirmed cases have been in the forest-covered regions of south-eastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first registered.

“I think the fact it's the first time that this is happening in West Africa works against us because the people don't really understand how this epidemic can continue for a long time if everyone doesn't pitch in” Pierre Formenty, a technical officer at World Health Organization (WHO), who specialises in Ebola, told IRIN news.

Antoine Gauge, the deputy director of emergencies for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Geneva, spoke with IRIN and said the lack of familiarity with Ebola in West Africa led to a substantial delay in alerting the international community to a possible outbreak. That gave the disease time to spread undetected for months, making stopping its transmission much more difficult.

Additionally, the large territory of West Africa, easy cross-boarder migration and lack of understanding makes harnessing the outbreak difficult. The factors of fear, lack of understanding and large geographical boundaries all hinder the development of a cohesive and efficient response.

Despite these challenges, Formenty of the WHO said those fighting the diseases would prevail. “We all want to control this outbreak,” he said. “We will control this outbreak, but it will take longer than expected.”

Source: IRIN News

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