A perfect storm

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
By Paul Martin

Economist.com
Jul 8th 2014

NEARLY six months after Guinea registered its first cases of the ebola virus, the outbreak is still spreading. A World Health Organisation statement last week said 467 people had died from the illness, which has been confirmed in more than 60 communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, including the capital cities of the former two countries.

Past outbreaks have been contained and eliminated through careful tracking of individual cases. But the current outbreak has proved harder to manage. West Africa has higher population density and better roads than Central Africa, the site of previous outbreaks, meaning the illness has more opportunity to spread. Robert Garry, a virologist from Tulane University in New Orleans, points out that the current virus is less aggressive than some previous trains, meaning that infected patients are able to spread the disease farther after symptoms begin. These two factors have created a “perfect storm”, he says.

Superstition about ebola does not help. Many do not believe the disease is real, and conspiracy theories are running wild. In Kenema, the main treatment centre in Sierra Leone, a rumour that medical staff kill patients and remove their body parts is keeping ebola patients away from hospital. Meanwhile, the roadblocks being set up around danger areas are ineffective. Given that it takes up to three weeks for symptoms to develop, taking motorists’ temperatures at roadblocks could have only a limited impact.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the only NGO actively treating patients, says the scale of the disease means it can no longer send teams to new ebola sites. With over 1,500 suspected cases yet to be traced, keeping track of individual victims is quickly becoming unfeasable.

The Rest….HERE

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