Ebola spreads in West Africa
CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) – Ebola could continue to spread in West Africa for months in one of the most challenging outbreaks of the disease the international community has ever faced, health experts said yesterday.
Dr Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organisation said that while other outbreaks have seen more cases, the current one is remarkable for the wide area over which it has spread – from Guinea’s remote tropical forests to the country’s capital and over the border to Liberia. The fact that it has touched the teeming Guinean capital, Conakry, is also a concern.
More than 100 deaths in Guinea and Liberia have been linked to the current outbreak, which may have begun in January, said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation (WHO). Because those who died early on in the outbreak will never be tested, the precise start of the outbreak will never be known, he said.
Officials got some good news this week when tests showed suspected cases in Ghana and Sierra Leone were not Ebola, the WHO said. It added that two of nine suspected cases in Mali were also cleared.
But Fukuda warned that it’s too early to say whether the rate of transmission is slowing, and the outbreak is far from over.
“We fully expect to be engaged in this outbreak for another two, three, four months,” Fukuda, who is the assistant director-general of the health security and environment cluster at the United Nations health agency, told reporters on a conference call from Geneva.
The disease incubates in people for up to 21 days, and outbreaks are generally not declared over until there have been no transmissions for at least two incubation periods.
As of yesterday, the WHO says there have been 157 suspected or confirmed cases in Guinea, where 101 people have died. Liberia has recorded 21 cases and 10 deaths.
Fukuda said that one of the biggest challenges for health workers has been combatting the fear and rumours that have sprung up around the outbreak. An angry crowd attacked a treatment centre in Guinea last week, accusing Doctors Without Borders of bringing the virus to the country.