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Tuesday
Sep 23rd

Ebola: The Trojan horse

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Slow responses on the behalf of West African nations and the international community have allowed the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa to transition into a full scale international bio-hazard. Officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) state there have been more than 730 deaths, including 60 health workers, from West Africa's first and current Ebola outbreak. The disease has infiltrated Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and most recently Nigeria. The fears by the international community that the disease will spread to neighboring countries have been realized. This is especially concerning, because the disease is not curable and carries with it an up to 90 percent fatality rate. Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, has stated that if the contagion is not contained soon the effects could be, "catastrophic."

WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl stated, "There could well be cases in the community that we have missed because this has been one of the biggest challenges in terms of also tracing contacts." He states that one of the biggest obstacles facing the containment is the vast amount of transmission points, many of which remain unknown. The fact that carriers of the disease are spread out as opposed to centralized, makes it difficult to set up treatment post and requires that health officials locate and transport those who have been possibly infected. This is made especially problematic due to the skepticism directed toward foreign health officials. Because the disease can remain dormant for several weeks, during which time it remains infectious, the disease has a high potential for being unknowingly spread. With one sick individual possessing the capacity to infect several more the disease possesses an exponential infection potential.

Many problems are preventing the containment of the outbreak including cultural customs of body burial that involve kissing and touching of the body of those who have died, including from Ebola. Ebola is then transmitted through mucus membranes. These same family members when questioned often deny having come in contact with the body. This makes it difficult to decide who to test for the virus. Many locals of these countries are skeptical of the intent of health officials sent to contain the outbreak. This has led to health officials literally being run out of towns where the need for education about the disease is most needed. Since the disease is untreatable, those who fear they've been infected, tend not seek treatment fearing they'll be stigmatized in their last portion of life. This leads to an increased populace exposed to the disease.

WHO and West African Leaders are finalizing a 100 million dollar plan aimed at containing the virus. Dr. Chan and associates are currently meeting with leaders from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast in an effort to draft the plan. Several hundred medical personnel from WHO are about to be deployed to West Africa. An emergency committee will be meeting on Wednesday August the 6th to discuss possible international risks. Liberia has closed its schools, temporarily suspended non-essential public servants, and closed its borders. Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency. The outbreak which was initially responded to with indifference is now being seen as Trojan horse with the potential to bring West Africa to its knees.

jeremy bamidele 0068 passport photo 1Jeremy Bamidele is a nationally syndicated journalist. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 

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