WHO calls emergency meeting on Ebola outbreak

Digital illustration of Ebola virus from Shutterstock.
Digital illustration of Ebola virus from Shutterstock.

Health ministers, international organizations, representatives from airlines and mining companies, lawyers and health experts from 11 African countries will all be meeting in Accra, Ghana this Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the worsening Ebola outbreak.

The outbreak, which started in Guinea, has now spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, infecting 763 people and killing 468.

Read: Deadly new Ebola strain found

This recent Ebola outbreak is the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak the world has seen, and the World Health Organization (WHO) says that drastic action needs to be taken to suppress the further spreading of the disease.

Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever that kills up to 90 percent of those who are infected. The disease first appeared in 1976 in a remote area of Sudan and in a village near the Ebola River, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The origins of the disease are unknown, but the illness can spread among both human and nonhuman primates, such as monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. Recent evidence seems to point towards fruit bats as the original hosts of Ebola.

Symptoms of this disease can begin to show two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, and may include fever, diarrhoea, throat or muscle pains, and vomiting, to name a few.

Read: Ebola hits Ugandan health workers

People who contract this disease often die when they begin bleeding internally and externally, causing their organs to shut down. There is currently no cure for Ebola, and the disease is able to spread quite easily through exposure with an infected person’s body fluids.

Therefore, the only way to delay and possibly cease a further outbreak is to isolate those who are currently infected to ensure that no one else will be exposed.

According to WHO, there are three key factors contributing to the recent acceleration of the spread of Ebola: a large number of activities occurring along the borders of highly infected countries; dense city populations; and cultural and traditional burial practices in rural communities.

Another factor complicating the effort to control the disease is the way families attempt to transport their deceased family members, which has contributed to the amplification of Ebola-affected areas.

Read: Ebola spreads panic better than disease

Additionally, there has been a great deal of fear in Ebola stricken communities, causing citizens to show hostility towards medical staff.

Some people have shown so much hostility towards these medical teams that they can no longer enter a number of villages to do follow ups on people who have possibly been in contact with Ebola patients; people who have been in contact with infected patients must be closely monitored for 21 days before being cleared as Ebola-free.

Myths and superstitions about Ebola have also hindered aid efforts, as international efforts have seen reluctance among infected citizens to go to the hospital.

The situation had gotten so bad that the Sierra Leone government published a fact sheet last week that disputed some of these myths.

Just a month after the Ebola outbreak started, Gambia began banning flights from Ebola-affected areas; airlines would drop off passengers, but not pick them up from these regions.

Liberian authorities have also implemented their own safety measures by declaring that they would prosecute those found hiding anyone suspected to have Ebola; some traditional doctors, faith healers and family members were found to be removing patients from hospitals in an attempt to cure them with their own traditional methods.

WHO has also taken the initiative to deploy more than 150 expert teams to help control the Ebola outbreak.

However, despite all of these precautions, the outbreak has yet to slow down. 

Read more:

Threat of Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Deadly Ebola raging in DRC
Guinea's first Ebola survivors return home 

Sources: Eye Witness NewsThe Washington PostInternational Business TimesBBC and Sierra Leone Health Ministry

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