CDC Doc: Ebola Outbreak in Africa Threatens to "Spiral out of Control"
The world’s first Ebola epidemic is in the headlines every day, as the number of infected persons continues to escalate in the Western African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria
As of September 3rd, the death toll in Africa is approaching 2,000, with estimates of confirmed Ebola cases exceeding 3,500.
More than 250 Health-care workers have been infected by the disease.
The first American doctor to contract the deadly virus was Texas native Kent Brantly, 33, who was serving as a missionary-aid worker in Liberia when he was diagnosed with Ebola, along with fellow worker Nancy Writebol.
Both were flown back to the United States, where they have since been successfully treated, and are considered no-longer contagious.
In Africa, approximately 90 percent of Ebola patients ultimately perish from the disease, but doctors in America were allowed to try a new drug, and their protocol proved effective.
The drug is called “ZMapp,” and it is manufactured by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Company of California.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced its intention to accelerate the development of the drug, pledging up to $42 million in funding for the project.
The drug had not been tested in humans, but laboratory testing on small primates proved effective, curing 100 percent of test animals, and ZMapp is credited with saving the lives of a handful of aid-workers in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, news of another American doctor with Ebola was announced; the man was identified as Dr. Richard Sacra, 51, an OB/GYN from Massachusetts working in Monrovia, Liberia, and reports said he isolated himself at the first signs of the disease, and currently is in the isolation unit.
The Situation in Western Africa
Dr. Tom Frieden with the Center for Disease Control recently returned from the outbreak zone, and updated several media outlets on Tuesday.
“It’s bad now, but it’s going to get worse in the very-near future,” Frieden told CBS This Morning on Tuesday. “There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing...we need to support these countries with resources, technical experts, and with cooperation—too many places are sealing off these countries.
“Paradoxically, if we do that it’s going to reduce safety everywhere else...whether we like it or not, we’re all connected.”
Frieden said the situation threatens to spiral out of control, and ultimately, could affect up to 20,000 people if African countries experiencing the crisis don’t learn to cooperate and get the help they need.
Frieden talked about visiting with victims who had acquired the virus and how helpless they felt, watching as it took the lives of family members. He described the situation as “horrific.”
Frieden indicated that the situation was at a tipping-point, and urged everyone in positions of influence to “scale up” their response, in an effort to keep the epidemic from becoming pandemic.
“The number of cases continues to increase and is now increasing rapidly,” he said. “I'm afraid that over the next few weeks those numbers are likely to increase further and significantly.”
At the United Nations on Tuesday, Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, chided leaders for an inadequate response to the health crisis in Africa.
She said doctors in the field are in dire need of more supplies and personnel, as they work to contain the outbreak.
"Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it," Liu said. "Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered."
Doctors Without Borders’ list of immediate needs offers a glimpse into the reality they are faced with.
- 800 more beds are needed In Monrovia, Liberia
- Field hospitals with isolation wards to be scaled up
- Trained personnel dispatched
- Mobile laboratories deployed to improve diagnostics
- Air bridges established to move personnel and material to and within West Africa
- Establishing a regional network of field hospitals to treat medical personnel with suspected or actual infections
The latest complete Ebola data is from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, was released August 26th:
The Guinean Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia, and the Nigerian Ministry of Health are working with national and international partners to investigate and respond to the outbreak.
The Guinea Ministry of Health announced 648 suspect and confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD), including 482 laboratory-confirmed cases, and 430 deaths.
Affected districts include Conakry, Guéckédou, Macenta, Kissidougou, Dabola, Djingaraye, Télimélé, Boffa, Kouroussa, Dubreka, Fria, Siguiri, Pita, Nzerekore, and Yamou; several are no longer active areas of EVD transmission (see map).
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia and WHO have reported 1378 suspect and confirmed EVD cases, including 322 laboratory-confirmed, and 694 deaths.
The Nigerian Ministry of Health and WHO reported 17 suspect and confirmed cases, including 13 laboratory-confirmed, and 6 deaths.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone and WHO reported a cumulative total of 1026 suspect and confirmed cases, including 935 laboratory-confirmed cases, and 422 deaths.
Cases have been confirmed in 11 of 12 Sierra Leone districts.
On August 29th, an alert was issued about new cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
to notify travelers that a small number of Ebola cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to inform travelers of actions they can take to reduce their risk of getting the disease.
CDC recommends that travelers to DRC protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola. Although cases have been reported only in the Equateur Province, all travelers to DRC should be alert for reports of possible further spread within the country.
According to the DRC Minister of Health, the outbreak in his country has been traced to a single patient who became infected after preparing bushmeat.
He said current information indicates that this outbreak is not related to the ongoing Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and announced a series of preventive measures taken to stop the spread of the outbreak, including contact tracing and follow-up, treatment of patients, and infection prevention and control measures. It is not yet known if these actions will be successful.