Ebola: Fighting the epidemic in West Africa
As the worst Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the virus continues to run rampant in West Africa, Malteser International is joining the efforts to fight the spreading epidemic.
“The epidemic still shows no signs of slowing down,” says Marie Benner, Malteser International’s public health expert. “Although the international community has stepped up its efforts, the crisis continues to be overwhelming.”
Together with its partner agency, Order of Malta France (OMF), Malteser International is channeling funds toward awareness and prevention campaigns in Guinea, one of the countries most affected by the crisis.
“Preventive measures are key to control the outbreak and to keep it from spreading to neighboring regions,” Benner says. “All communities must be informed and take measures to protect themselves accordingly, if we are to keep the outbreak from spiraling out of control.”
In Liberia, OMF sent 1.6 tons of protective gear such as tents, coats, gloves, and boots, as well as cleaning and disinfection products, tests and medicines. Another batch of equipment was sent to Pita, Guinea, to be managed by the OMF clinic. These prevention kits allow health professionals to observe the necessary protocols to avoid the risk of contamination.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had considered the epidemic of Ebola hemorrhagic fever as a “public health emergency of global reach.” The outbreak has so far killed more than 3,300 people in West Africa – most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. More than 7,000 cases have been confirmed, and the WHO warns that tens of thousands more could be infected within the next few months, if the international community does not intensify its efforts.
There is currently no vaccine to protect people against Ebola. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with blood, secretions, body fluids or organs. After an incubation period of 2-21 days, the patient starts displaying the first symptoms of high fever, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or hemorrhaging. The average fatality rate is currently around 50%.