Monday 22 December 2014

Ebola crisis is now a threat to humanity, US warns

Gregory Katz

Published 04/09/2014 | 02:30

About half of the 3,000 people who ahve caught the virus have died in the current Ebola outbreak
About half of the 3,000 people who ahve caught the virus have died in the current Ebola outbreak

Ebola represents a threat to all humanity and an outbreak of the virus in five West African countries will likely spread further, American officials warned yesterday.

"This is not an African disease. This is a virus that is a threat to all humanity," Gayle Smith, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director at the National Security Council, told reporters.

About half of the 3,000 people who have caught the virus have died in the current Ebola outbreak, which has hit Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal.

The disease is spreading faster than health workers can keep up with it, warned Tom Kenyon, of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, who recently visited the region.

Kenyon said that the world had the tools to stop the outbreak, but they have to be put in place.

He said more treatment centres were being opened and that he was about to start negotiations with the African Union to send more health workers.

"I think we're confident if we put these treatment units up, the health workers will come but, of course, they have to be adequately trained and supervised," he said.

Many on the ground have said there aren't enough protective suits for health workers, who have become infected in large numbers in this outbreak. The US government is "ramping up significantly" donations of protective gear, said Gayle Smith.

Kenyon said the key to solving the outbreak will be the effective implementation of measures used in all previous outbreaks: isolating and treating the sick, monitoring their contacts for signs of disease and safely burying the dead. He said experimental vaccines would not be available in time to make a difference.

One such experimental drug is ZMapp, which has been given to seven people so far in this outbreak. Its makers said that all of its doses were now exhausted, and it will be months before more can be made.

William Pooley, a British nurse who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, was among those who received the drug. He was discharged from a London hospital yesterday after making a full recovery.

Irish Independent

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