Monday, September 29, 2014

Ebola Update

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as of last week, over 6,000 people have been infected with the Ebola virus and more than 2,900 have died. Although Ebola infections have been identified in five countries, to date the epidemic is confined primarily to just three; Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Senegal has had just one case (a man who traveled from Guinea) and Nigeria, with 8 deaths, hasn't had a new case in almost three weeks.

The death rate among infected persons remains close to 50%. This is a virus that kills its victims rather quickly and is difficult to treat. Fortunately, person-to-person transmission requires close contact in the form of exchange of fluids. But that means that the people at highest risk of becoming infected are health care workers. The World Health Organization reports that more than 120 health care workers have died since the outbreak began. The lack of proper facilities and equipment to effectively isolate patients and protect health care workers is a factor.

Most airlines have cancelled commercial flights to the three countries at the center of the outbreak. Travel between and within the three countries has been restricted as well. A side effect of travel bans is that the flow of health care workers and medical equipment/supplies to affected areas is made more difficult.

This epidemic is not over yet. It may not even have peaked.

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