The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is now considered as the worst Ebola outbreak in history affecting more than 600 and killing over 390 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and while no travel and trade restrictions have yet been imposed for the affected countries, health authorities are concerned that the disease is spreading and emerging in cities and border areas.
Ebola outbreaks tend to be confined in remote areas, making it easier to contain, but the current outbreak which started in Guinea in March this year, is different in that cases have been identified in 60 locations in the three affected countries and these included Conakry, Guinea's capital city where nearly a quarter of the country's population resides and which so far had 65 confirmed Ebola cases and 33 deaths.
As the outbreak became a cross-border crisis, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, June 25, that drastic action is needed to contain the deadly epidemic.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo said in a statement that the Ebola outbreak is no longer a country specific problem but rather a sub-regional crisis that needs firm action by governments and partners. He said that the UN agency is concerned of the cross-border transmission of the disease and the possibility that it will spread to more countries.
The geographic extent of the epidemic already proves challenging but making matters worse is the sense of mistrust among community members in affected countries. Health workers who try to investigate the outbreak, for instance, have been thrown stones at in Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to WHO.
"There is an urgent need to intensify response efforts; to promote cross-border collaboration and information sharing of suspected cases and contacts in line with WHO guidelines and to mobilize all sectors of the community to ensure unhindered access to affected areas," Sambo said adding that this is the only way that the epidemic can be effectively addressed.
Ebola is a highly deadly disease which to date does not yet have available vaccines and treatments. It often starts with milder symptoms that mimic flu but becomes worse overtime with some of the victims bleeding from their nose, mouth, ears, eyes and rectum. Because the patients experience internal and external hemorrhaging, many of those who contracted the disease often die in ten days.
WHO is convening a special meeting to develop a comprehensive plan for combating the outbreak. It will be held in Accra, Ghana on July 2 and 3 and will be attended by health ministers from 11 countries.