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Ebola outbreak not an epidemic, yet


World Health Organization’s Dr. Keija Fukuda describes the Ebola infection in 4 countries as an outbreak, not an epidemic. More than 1800 people are infected; more than 900 have died in the last few weeks.

Doctor Fukuda spoke on Face the Nation, with Bob Schieffer on Sunday August 10, 2014. His concern is that our globalized travel and trade may eventually transmit the virus in more severe infection rates especially in countries with weaker healthcare systems facing this viral threat.

Spreading from Guinea in western Africa to bordering countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, this viral outbreak started with fever in one child in December last year, then diarrhea and vomiting. It is spread by contact with those bodily fluids, and we have no cure.

Parents of the child died. Healthcare workers suffered the same fate, but not before they had taken the disease to multiple villages. As of today, Nigeria is added to the countries affected with 13 new cases of Ebola being reported.

Unprecedented proportions

In March this year, Doctors Without Borders announced the outbreak had reached ‘unprecedented proportion’ as it had spread to so many villages in areas devastated by years of civil war and impoverished healthcare. Many village hospitals, ill-equipped to deal with Ebola, are being over-run by the morbidity and infection. Panic has hit healthcare workers and families as tragically more than 150 have been infected and over 80 have died.

Most previous outbreaks of Ebola had been isolated early. As a result of adequate surveillance, the virus had always been spotted and the victims quarantined and treated. This outbreak so far appears to have more impact than all the others combined. Doctor Fukuda cites the reason for the severity of the virus as too many roads and not enough qualified medical staff.

WHO: No ban on trade or travel, yet

Doctor Fukuda addressed the issue of restricting travel to and from areas where infections have taken hold in order to address the 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus; “not at this time” advises the organization. He does call for increased resource allocation to provide immediate medical attention. Without addressing Ebola, the likelihood of widespread malaria and dysentery rises.

Many villages have few resources to combat epidemics. Most have no gloves or running water; stopping transmission of so deadly a virus as Ebola will require having a healthcare system capable of identifying and isolating patients while educating an already weakened society about how to deal with what seems mysterious and deadly.

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