Medical staff wear rubber gloves that must be regularly disinfected. Photographer: Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images
Health specialists in an isolation ward for Ebola-infected patients at the Doctors Without Borders clinic in Guéckédou, southern Guinea. Image by: Seyllou / AFP
Image credit: http://www.bvoltaire.fr/francoisfievet/foot-fascine-ebola-menace-lindifference,91144
The Ebola crisis in West Africa doesn’t look like it is under control; it continues to ravage countries, particularly Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Since March 2014, the death toll has reached 672, according to UN figures (BBC News, July 30, 2014).
Liberia is especially hard-hit. The BBC's West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says treatment facilities have reportedly been overwhelmed in the Liberian capital Monrovia. Some wards are so full that health workers are compelled to treat some patients in their homes.
Already, the government are closing down schools across the country. Some communities would be placed under quarantine as well. The Liberian football association cancelled games as fears grow of the spread of the Ebola virus.
Tomorrow has been declared a non-working day – this is to permit for the disinfection of all public facilities. All non-essential government workers will be sent home for 30 days and the army is being deployed to enforce the measures.
Even the US Peace Corps said it was withdrawing 340 volunteers from the three countries because of Ebola. In fact, two of its volunteers had been isolated after being exposed to someone who later died from the virus.
Ebola is ruthless and it has a fatality rate of at least 60%. The disease has no known cure and no vaccine. It is the symptoms of Ebola that cause death. But if the patient can be kept alive long enough to develop antibodies in his/her system, he/she may survive the infection. Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery.
Liberia's Health Minister Walter Gwenigale wasn’t trying to be funny when he said on March 31, 2014 that people should abstain from sex because the virus could spread via bodily fluids.
Not just sex, mind you. Funerals are being shunned as a result of a fear of contagion by someone who has had contact with a corpse.
And the traditional handshake is no longer a part of salutations in Guinea as people are now really terrified of getting Ebola. An infected person, who may not show symptoms for up to 21 days, can pass on the disease through direct contact.
The outbreak – the world's deadliest to date – was first reported in Guinea in February before it spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Other countries are not taking chances. Ivory Coast barred buses from Liberia and Guinea. Brazil-based Vale SA (VALE5), the world’s biggest iron-ore producer, sent foreign workers in Guinea back to their homes in April. Senegal even closed its land borders with Guinea. And Ethiopia and Kenya have begun screening those who are arriving from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Airlines are taking precautions too. Air Mauritania is said to be refusing to fly Guinean passengers in transit in Dakar, Senegal’s capital to Conakry, Guinea’s capital on the grounds of the Ebola outbreak. Togo-based Asky Airlines suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone – this followed the death of one of its passengers from the virus after he flew from Liberia to Nigeria via the Togolese capital, Lomé. And Nigerian carrier Arik has ceased direct flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Doctors Without Borders said the way the virus has spread is unlike any previous Ebola outbreaks, raising alarm among health workers.
"Ebola is usually a localized, rural disease, but this outbreak has a broad geographic spread and is reaching cities too," wrote GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Tristan McConnell, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
So folks, put off that trip to West Africa until at a later date.