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World Health Organization Ramping Up Fight Against Ebola
9/18/2014 2:58:31 PM

WHO Secretary General Dr. Margaret Chan is trying to push other countries and agencies to get more involved in trying to curb the Ebola epidemic which some fear could spiral out of control if money and resources aren’t applied and soon. (Courtesy photo)
By Barrington M. Salmon, Special from The Washington Informer

The Ebola epidemic is wreaking havoc on populations in parts of West Africa forcing the World Health Organization (WHO) to call for a more determined global response to bring the outbreak under control.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the largest outbreak of its kind in history and the first in West Africa. To date, WHO officials said, 3,600 people have been diagnosed with Ebola and 1,900 people have died. The affected countries are Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. The virus spreads when people come in contact with bodily fluids of infected people. The sudden onset of headaches, fever, muscle pain, weakness and sore throat indicates the presence of the disease.

What’s troubling, officials said, is that more than 40 percent of the cases have been diagnosed in the past three weeks. While Ebola generally has an 80 to 90 percent fatality rate, the overall fatality rate stands at 50 percent for this most recent outbreak, with a 39 percent fatality rate in Sierra Leone and 64 percent in Guinea, according to WHO data.

So far, Nigeria has avoided the depth of problems its counterparts are encountering. WHO officials confirmed 21 cases and seven fatalities, there. According to Agence France-Presse, 320 people suspected of being exposed to the virus have been cleared and released, and an additional 41 remained under surveillance. In Port Harcourt, authorities said a doctor treating an Ebola victim had died, his wife was still in isolation Monday, and his sister had been released.

On Sept. 7, President Barack Obama called Ebola a national security threat. And the day before, Sierra Leone’s information minister announced that officials are planning a three-day national lockdown starting Sept. 19 as a way to stop the spread of the virus.

“We believe this [is] the best way for now to identify those who are sick and remove them from those who are well,” said Alhaji Alpha Kanu on CNN.

Officials with the humanitarian medical group Doctors without Borders said such a lockdown is unlikely to stop the spread of the disease and will likely drive people underground.

In Washington on Sept. 3, Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, said health officials need about $600 million to fight the disease and acknowledged that it will take between six and nine months to curb the epidemic, longer than originally thought. She said the outbreak is the largest, most complex and most severe WHO and other global officials have ever seen.

“This outbreak is unprecedented as Dr. Chan said. The outbreak is racing ahead of our efforts to control it,” said WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein. “We need to ramp up and intensify three, four times. We’re setting up new treatment centers and treating people.”

WHO officials said the most urgent needs include technical assistance and resources for health care workers, money to pay health workers, medical care for first responders and appropriate facilities and materials to care for the infected.

Chan said it is important that Ebola patients and Ebola-affected countries aren’t stigmatized and isolated.

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