AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Race against time to control the outbreak of ebola

Monday, 21 July 2014

Freetown (Agenzia Fides) - In the last two weeks, the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has treated more than 70 patients with symptoms similar to those of ebola and fears a possible increase of patients in the coming weeks (see Fides 10/07/2014). Beyond medical treatment, the control of the epidemic will require the deployment of many people to train health staff on infection control measures, monitor and track cases and their contacts, to create a network for the epidemiological surveillance and to promote public health messages. Because of the limited human resources, MSF is focusing its efforts on the treatment of patients and community awareness in relation to the disease, with more than 150 local and international operators in action in the Country. The organization is concerned about the hidden cases. At the moment, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) is starting to reinforce the teams involved to trace the contacts. Patients must still be identified; in one village near Ngolahun (Eastern Province) almost 40 have been reported. Through the creation of centers for the treatment and unit transit near the villages affected, MSF can intervene quickly and reduce the risk of infection in local hospitals and in the community. In units of transit in Koindu and Daru, patients who show symptoms are isolated while waiting for the test results. The Zaire strain of Ebola can kill up to 90%, but if the infected people receive treatment at the first signs of the disease they are more likely to survive. Ebola creates fear in the community and people who are ill are often stigmatized. Families can be driven out of their villages and sick people are moved away and die in solitude. To reduce the fear, MSF teams provide psychological support to patients and their families. The epidemic that is spreading in West Africa has reached unprecedented levels in terms of geographical spread, number of cases and number of deaths. According to WHO data updated to 15 July, since the beginning of the epidemic, there have been 964 cases and 603 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 21/07/2014)