Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was officially declared on 22 March in Guinea, it has claimed more than 11,261 lives in the region. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is currently affecting three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal have been declared over. A separate outbreak in DRC has also ended.
Though Ebola has faded from the news headlines, the epidemic in West Africa continues to claim lives today. Around 30 people become infected each week in Sierra Leone and Guinea – a number that would be considered a major disaster under normal circumstances – and the outbreak has recently reemerged in Liberia.
- Liberia: After being declared Ebola-free on 9 May, six (6) new cases have been confirmed since the re-emergence of the virus at the end of June.
- Guinea: 13 confirmed cases in the country in the week to 12 July in three main hotspots (Forecariah, Boké/Fria, Conakry)
- Sierra Leone: 14 confirmed cases in the country in the week to 12 July in three main hotspots (Freetown, Port Loko, Kambia).
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 West Africa Ebola response started in March 2014 and includes activities in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. MSF currently employs around 92 international and around 1,760 national locally hired staff in the region.
Since the beginning of the epidemic:
- 9,626 patients admitted to MSF Ebola management centres
- 5,149 patients confirmed with Ebola
- 2,425 patients recovered from Ebola in our centres
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