Workers warn Ebola in Sierra Leone is ‘spreading nine times faster than two months ago’

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
By Paul Martin
November 4, 2014

SIERRA LEONE – Cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone are still rising quickly, campaigners have warned. In rural parts of the country, the virus is spreading nine times faster than two months ago, a report from the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) found. AGI – an organization set up by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – said rates are also increasing in the capital Freetown, with six times more new cases recorded per day than two months ago. The news comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that the number of new cases of the disease is leveling off. Nick Thompson, AGI’s chief executive, told BBC news: ‘What we’re seeing is a varied picture across the country. There are areas where it’s still going up quite dramatically. ‘Particularly in the western area, the rural areas, the area around and behind Freetown on the western peninsula. ‘That’s where you’re seeing quite dramatic rises in cases, up to nine times more per day than two months ago. ‘It’s a very mixed picture; it’s a changing situation within and across the country. It’s still very much an acute crisis, there’s no room for complacency even if response steps up.’ The spread of the disease has only started to slow down in one area of Sierra Leone: Bombali, in the country’s north, the report said.

Mr. Thompson added that the AGI did find that reports rates of the disease plateauing in Liberia, but they are not certain why. He said that burial management has ‘improved significantly’ in Liberia and Sierra Leone, with an increased number of bodies buried in 24 hours. Being able to get bodies buried ‘safely, promptly and with dignity’ is going to be one of the key ways of breaking the chain of transmission, he added. Currently more than half of all infections of the virus are transmitted through dead bodies, because of local customs which involve washing the bodies of people who have died. Ebola is spread through blood or body fluids, including urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola. It can also be spread from objects like needles and syringes that have been contaminated with the virus, or through infected fruit bats or primates. Last week, the AGI warned that even if existing international commitments are met by December, there could be a shortage of over 6,000 beds across Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nearly half of the beds currently planned in the three countries will lack the medical staff needed, their study found. AGI based its projections on the WHO’s worst-case scenario, which forecast 10,000 new cases per week in December. Nick Thompson said: ‘The international community badly misjudged the impact of the Ebola epidemic in its first few months and is compounding that error by failing to act quickly enough now.’ –Daily Mail

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