15 August 2014 - More than 1 million people are affected by Ebola, with over a thousand having died from the disease.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan gave a bleak assessment on the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa during a briefing this week, stating that the outbreak has placed every city with an international airport at risk of an imported case, and that “no one is talking about an early end to the outbreak.
“More than one million people are affected, and these people need daily material support, including food,” Dr. Chan said. “The isolation of this zone has made it even more difficult for agencies, like MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières), to bring in staff and supplies.”
Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Guinea are the hardest hit by the outbreak. MSF's emergency coordinator in Liberia, Lindis Hurum, described the situation in the capital Monrovia, as "catastrophic" with reports of at least 40 health workers infected, most of the city's hospitals closed and reports of dead bodies lying in streets and houses.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed the need for the entire UN system to support efforts that are being made to combat the outbreak, and has appointed Dr. David Nabarro as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola.
Six months into the outbreak, fear is proving to be the most difficult barrier to overcome. Fear causes contacts of cases to escape from the surveillance system, families to hide symptomatic loved ones, and patients to flee treatment centres.
The Ebola virus is highly contagious, but is not airborne. Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, as can occur during health-care procedures, home care, or traditional burial practices, which involve the close contact of family members and friends with bodies.
Earlier this week, WHO announced that it is ethical to treat Ebola patients with experimental drugs to counter the current situation, which is considered to be the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak of Ebola in history.
UNRIC artice on Ebola: Ebola, the harsh reality in western Africa
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