West Africa Ebola response grapples with fear, wide geographic range

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
CIDRAP News
Apr 08, 2014

The Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea and Liberia is one of the most challenging of its kind due to unique features and challenges, such as the wide geographic scope of the area and the involvement of a major urban area, health officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

Though they expect case numbers to grow over the next 2 to 4 months, most of the illnesses can be traced to chains of transmission, a situation fueling cautious optimism about getting a foothold on the threat to West Africa and other nations.

At a media telebriefing in Geneva today, Keiji Fukuda, MD, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and environment, said another challenge is that even though the disease can be contained by limiting exposure to body fluids and close contact with infected patients, the highly lethal nature of the disease provokes a great deal of fear, anxiety, and rumors that pose challenges in communicating about the disease.

“It’s important to get out as much accurate information as possible, so people have facts to work with and not just rumors,” he said, crediting several organizations that are helping with the outbreak, such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Pasteur Institute, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the International Federation of the Red Cross.

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