TIME ebola

U.N. Says Ebola Cases Could Eventually Reach 20,000

GENEVA (AP) — The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as doctors know about now, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

A new plan to stop Ebola by the U.N. health agency also assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.

The agency published new figures saying that 1,552 people have died from the killer virus from among the 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. At least 40 percent of the cases have been in just the last three weeks, the U.N. health agency said, adding that “the outbreak continues to accelerate.”

In Geneva, the agency also released a new plan for handling the Ebola crisis that aims to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months and prevent it from spreading internationally.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s assistant director-general, told reporters the plan would cost $489 million over the next nine months and require the assistance of 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers.

The 20,000 figure, he added, “is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak.”

“That’s not saying we expect 20,000,” he added. “But we have got to have a system in place that we can deal with robust numbers.”

Aylward said the far-higher caseload is believed to come from cities.

“It’s really just some urban areas that have outstripped the reporting capacity,” he said.

Aylward also said the agency is urging airlines to lift most of their restrictions about flying to Ebola-hit nations because a predictable “air link” is needed to help deal with the crisis. Air France on Wednesday cancelled its flights to Sierra Leone. Aylward said the agency hopes airlines will lift most restrictions within two weeks.

Nigerian authorities, meanwhile, said a man who contracted Ebola after coming into contact with a traveler from Liberia had evaded their surveillance efforts and infected a doctor in southern Nigeria who later died.

The announcement of a sixth death in Nigeria marked the first fatality outside the commercial capital of Lagos, where a Liberian-American man Patrick Sawyer arrived in late July and later died of Ebola. On Wednesday, Nigerian authorities had said they not yet eliminated the disease from Africa’s most populous nation but that it was being contained.

The doctor’s wife is also in isolation now after she starting showing symptoms of Ebola, Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu added. Morticians who embalmed the doctor are part of a group of 70 people now under surveillance in Port Harcourt.

TIME Infectious Disease

Nigeria Confirms First Ebola Death Outside Lagos

Nigeria Ebola
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria on Aug. 4, 2014. Sunday Alamba/AP

Doctor who died in southeastern city marks Nigeria's sixth Ebola death

Nigeria confirmed Thursday the country’s first Ebola-related death outside Lagos, the country’s main international transit hub.

The victim, an unnamed doctor who died in the southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt, marks Nigeria’s sixth Ebola death in a recent outbreak of the disease primarily affecting West Africa. He is believed to have been infected by a man linked to Nigeria’s first Ebola case, Patrick Sawyer, who died in Lagos shortly after arriving there from Liberia.

The yet-unnamed doctor had died last Friday, but Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu waited until Thursday to confirm the case, the BBC reports. The doctor’s wife has been put under quarantine, while an additional 70 people suspected to have had contact with him are being monitored in Port Harcourt.

While the death marks a blow to Nigeria’s efforts to contain the disease, Mr. Chukwu noted that while “the problem is not over . . . Nigeria is doing well on containment, all the disease in Nigeria were all traced to Patrick Sawyer.”

The Nigerian government said Wednesday that schools in the country would not reopen until October 13 in order to help prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Recent figures from the World Health Organization suggest Ebola has infected more than 3,000 people and killed over half of its victims, largely in West Africa. More than 240 health workers have been infected with the deadly virus, for which there is no vaccine or cure, though it is treatable and survivable. Ebola is not airborne, and is spread only when humans come into contact with the bodily fluids of those infected with the virus.

West Africa’s health ministers will be meeting later Thursday to discuss measures to address what’s become the largest-ever Ebola epidemic.

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 26

1. “This is a reflection of long-standing and growing inequalities of access to basic systems of healthcare delivery.” –Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer on the Ebola outbreak.

By Democracy Now!

2. Despite commitments to the contrary, elite colleges are still failing to bring poorer students into the fold.

By Richard Pérez-Peña in the New York Times

3. #ISISMediaBlackout: Tuning out Islamist rhetoric and taking out their powerful propaganda weapon.

By Nancy Messieh at the Atlantic Council

4. What makes income inequality so pernicious? The shocking odds against moving up the income ladder for some Americans.

By Richard Reeves at the Brookings Institution

5. The specter of Iraq’s looming collapse is inflaming concerns about Afghanistan’s electoral crisis. But the two countries are very different.

By The Editors of Bloomberg View

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Infectious Disease

How Fear and Ignorance is Helping Ebola Spread

Overly cautious companies and governments are hindering the flow of help to afflicted regions

+ READ ARTICLE

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has amassed 2,600 cases and claimed more than 1,400 lives, spreading fear and rumors about the illness around the globe — which may be making things worse.

Some overly cautious airlines and shipping companies are stopping service to infected areas, so aid can’t get in to help. Overzealous governments have also imposed city-wide quarantines and closed borders, so patients find it difficult to seek help.

The World Health Organization continues to try to educate regional governments and firms about the virus, but until the UN agency can reverse the flow of disinformation, Ebola will continue to spread.

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola’s Untold Tragedy: Foreign Families Are Fleeing

The exodus of industry and families from West Africa could have severe implications

Health care is dire in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. But one of the lesser recognized tragedies is the fact that international families—families of diplomats, missionaries or business people—have fled the country either by choice or at strong recommendation from their homeland. If they don’t return, some fear that their exodus could cripple the countries’ growing economies.

“The health situation in terms of direct risk of infection [for the average person] is really not that bad, but its effects are immense,” says Jeff Trudeau, the director of The American International School of Monrovia (AISM), which has lost well over half of its expected students for the start of the 2014 school year, and has delayed its start date to October. Right now, he’s only 50% confident they will open then.

In Liberia, the government closed public schools. Private schools are subject to fewer regulations and some remain open. However, even if AISM wanted to open on time, it simply no longer has students to fill its chairs. AISM and similar international schools in West Africa cater to kids who come from countries with specific educational standards, typically children of missionary families, diplomats, and international businesses. Last year, 16 embassies were represented at the international school in Liberia.

Closed schools are a serious problem for children’s education, but closures in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone have implications even beyond lost learning opportunities. Trudeau says the country of Liberia, where he lives, has greatly improved in terms of economy and industry in the last few years. Two years ago, AISM only had 70 students, but as the school season neared this August, AISM was expecting to welcome 150. Trudeau says his school has also lost 20% of its teachers.

“Liberia entered a period of prosperity, and we grew last year,” says Trudeau. It’s reflective of how things improved security-wise and economically. Parents felt comfortable bringing their kids to Liberia.”

Trudeau says that if the school can’t open in October, and doesn’t open until, say, January, they will probably have fewer than 50 students. The other students will, by that time, likely have enrolled in other schools in their home countries or elsewhere.

Similar U.S. Embassy-funded schools in Sierra Leone and Guinea are also struggling. The American international school in Sierra Leone remains closed, and though the school in Guinea is open, it has only 50 students—a 50% reduction in their expected class.

In the wake of the outbreak, kids are left without parents and people are dying of otherwise preventable diseases due to lack of medical attention, Doctors Without Borders has written in TIME. So far, Ebola has infected 2,615, killing 1,427. But the aftermath won’t simply be a clean-up, but also a catch-up—to gain back the momentum they made in the last few years.

“There are three things a country needs to be successful: security, health care, and education,” says Trudeau. “Education is our direct responsibility. If we can attract top-quality people to return to Liberia, we can help them rebuild and restore. Unfortunately, without health care, you can see how quickly this is lost. No matter how well you’ve done in security and education, without health care, it doesn’t work.”

TIME ebola

Nigeria Confirms 2 New Ebola Cases

Nigeria Ebola
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria on Aug. 4, 2014. Sunday Alamba/AP

The two are the first infected people who didn’t have contact with the ill traveler

Nigeria’s health ministry confirmed Friday two new cases of Ebola in the country, the first people to come down with the disease who didn’t have direct contact with an infected traveler who brought the virus into the country from nearby Liberia.

Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said both newly infected people are the spouses of two caregivers who contracted the virus and later died after giving treatment to Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who flew into the country infected with the virus last month.

Sawyer passed Ebola on to 11 other individuals before he died. The two new infections plus Sawyer bring the total number of Ebola patients in Nigeria during this outbreak to 14, five of whom have died while another five have recovered.

[AP]

TIME Infectious Disease

Liberia’s West Point Slum Reels From the Nightmare of Ebola

Residents of the West Point slum receive food aid during the second day of the government's Ebola quarantine on their neighborhood on August 21, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty

Food prices skyrocket overnight after the Monrovia slum is quarantined

A few weeks ago, West Point was merely the worst slum in war-racked Liberia. Today, it is both that and the most notorious urban center of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.

It is also quarantined from the rest of the Liberian capital Monrovia, and its dank alleyways subject to a nightly curfew. Barricades and barbed wire have gone up, and troops posted. Ships started patrolling the waterfront on Wednesday to further restrict the movement of the 70,000 or so residents. Food prices have skyrocketed. On Thursday, hundreds of people lined up for government handouts of rice and water.

“At the moment West Point is stuck at a standstill and is in an anarchy situation,” Moses Browne of aid group Plan International told the Associated Press.

Over 1,400 people have died in the five-month Ebola outbreak, and Liberia is the country that has been worst hit. Almost a thousand people have been confirmed infected, and more than half of them have already died. Rural Lofa County is worst hit part of the country, but when it was found that Ebola had made its way into West Point, authorities became alarmed.

“There’s a higher risk of contagion for any infectious disease in an environment that is so crowded and that lacks running water and proper sanitation,” Kamalini Lokuge, a research fellow at Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment tells TIME.

With only four toilets, that environment would be West Point.

Adds Lokuge: “Ebola is nowhere as contagious as the flu, but you need to spread knowledge about how it is transmitted in order to control it.”

Over the past week, this has proven to be one of the gravest problems in West Point. On Saturday, a health center was looted and Ebola patients sent running, after a rumor spread that infected people were being brought in from other parts of the country. Others refused to believe the disease existed. “There is no Ebola,” some protesters attacking the clinic shouted.

“There is a high level of disbelief in the government in West Point,” Sanj Srikanthan, the International Rescue Committee’s emergency response director in Liberia, tells TIME. “The government has made a concerted effort to reach out to community leaders, youth groups and churches with the message that the only way to contain the disease is to understand it. But some people still believe Ebola is a conspiracy, and those people we need to reach.”

But even in West Point itself, conveying the gravity of the disease is a challenge. “There’s a degree of anger, people are feeling they are being neglected for others,” Srikanthan says. “This makes it harder to convince people of the seriousness of Ebola.”

Clashes erupted between West Point residents and police when the barricades were first raised and the 9 pm to 6 am curfew imposed, and the area is still tense.

On Thursday, senior United Nations officials arrived in Africa to oversee the Ebola response, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s pointman David Nabarro. Srikanthan, like other aid workers, believe the presence of dignitaries is of utmost importance .

“This is a forgotten corner of the world facing an unprecedented situation,” he said. “This is still a containable outbreak, but local resources are simply overwhelmed. It would be great to see some recognizable faces taking control over certain aspects of the response.”

He also believes that the situation is not entirely hopeless.

“The situation may be catastrophic, but it is one that can be turned around,” he says. “I think the risks have been overhyped, and that even humanitarians are, to an extent, affected by the fears reported by media. Being in Monrovia, you’re not necessarily going to get Ebola, it’s not airborne.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,421 other followers