Ebola outbreak: A ‘last battle’ to stop deadly disease as experts warn against complacency

Saturday, November 29, 2014
By Paul Martin

Amid conflicting reports of a decline in Ebola infection rates, and a danger of complacency setting in, new tactics will be required as the disease advances

Jeremy Laurance
Friday 28 November 2014

The World Health Organisation is poised to launch a new drive against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in response to the rapidly evolving situation – by getting victims to drink.

One of the most effective measures against the lethal infection turns out to be drinking large quantities – four litres or more a day – of fluids containing added salts.

Oral re-hydration is standard supportive treatment in cholera outbreaks and diarrhoeal disease across the globe, keeping the patient alive while their body fights the infection. But continuing medical disagreements over whether giving fluids intravenously, as practised in some Ebola treatment centres in West Africa, is preferable are delaying wide-scale implementation of the plan.

The new approach is gaining currency as experts recognise that the epidemic is spreading beyond the reach of current efforts to control it. The United National Ebola Emergency Response Mission has admitted it will miss its target of containing the virus by 1 December. Almost 16,000 people have been infected in the three worst-hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – and over 5,600 have died as the disease has spread panic, closing schools and hospitals.

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