Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was officially declared on 22 March in Guinea, it has claimed more than 11,313 lives in the region. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is currently affecting two countries in West Africa: Guinea and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, United States, Spain, Mali and United Kingdom have been declared over.
The emergency is not over – the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues in Guinea where three new cases were recorded every week.
- Liberia: After first being declared free of Ebola transmission on 9 May, six new cases were confirmed in Liberia at the end of June following the death of a 17-year-old boy. Liberia was again declared free of Ebola virus transmission on 3 September 2015, and has now entered a period of heightened surveillance.
- Guinea: Three new confirmed cases in the country in the week ending 25 October. All three new cases are from the same household in the sub-prefecture of Kaliah, Forecariah, and are registered high-risk contacts linked to a case from the same area last week. The country also reported three cases the previous week. There are currently 364 contacts under follow-up in Guinea (an increase from 246 the previous week), 141 of whom are high-risk. An additional 233 contacts identified during the past 42 days remain untraced. Therefore there remains a near-term risk of further cases among both registered and untraced contacts.
- Sierra Leone: The last case to receive treatment for Ebola in Sierra Leone was confirmed free of the virus after a second consecutive negative test on 25 September. The country will be declared free of EVD transmission on 7 November assuming that no further cases are reported and it will enter into a period of enhanced surveillance.
What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus that is transmitted through direct contact with blood, bodily secretions, organs and infected people. Ebola first appeared in 1976, and although its origins are unknown, bats are considered the likely host. MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but until 2014 these were usually geographically contained and involved more remote locations. Ebola has a mortality rate of between 25 and 80 per cent, and as there is currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus patient care is centred on hydration and treating the symptoms such as fever and nausea. Ebola starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by vomiting and diarrhoea and in some cases haemorrhaging and often death. Despite being so deadly, it is a fragile virus that can be easily killed with sunshine, heat, bleach, chlorine and even soap and water.
Preventing transmission is essential: patients are treated in Ebola Treatment Centres where strict infection control procedures are in force. Identifying those people the patient was in contact with when they were ill becomes a priority, as do safe burials. Community health promotion is also undertaken to inform the community about the threat and how to try and keep themselves safe and what to do if they develop signs.
What is MSF doing?
MSF’s Ebola response started in March 2014 and had included activities in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as well as Nigeria, Mali and DRC. MSF currently employs around 75 international and around 269 national (or locally hired) staff in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Since the beginning of the epidemic:
- 10,287 patients admitted to MSF Ebola management centres
- 5,225 patients confirmed with Ebola
- 2,475 patients recovered from Ebola in our centres
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