Liberia’s Ebola epidemic is set to get worse, the head of the US’s top public health body says. Many cases of the deadly virus have not been included in the official tally.
The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for “urgent action” to fight Ebola, a deadly form of hemorrhagic fever that causes vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding. With Liberia struggling to contain the spread of the virus, Tom Frieden met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf earlier this week to discuss ways to combat the current outbreak.
“The cases are increasing,” Frieden said Wednesday at a news conference in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. “I wish I did not have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better.” He added: “The world has never seen an outbreak of Ebola like this. Consequently, not only are the numbers large, but we know there are many more cases than have been diagnosed and reported.”
Liberia has seen 624 Ebola deaths and 1,082 diagnoses since spring. The toll has risen to 1,427 people across West Africa, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization, with 2,615 suspected or confirmed cases in the region. WHO representatives also estimate that official count undercuts the true total, owing in part to community resistance to outside medical staff and a lack of access to infected areas.
Frieden will next travel to Sierra Leone, where a third doctor has died during the outbreak. The CDC director has asked people not to touch sick relatives and to make sure they stayed out of contact with bodily fluids such as sweat and blood, which can transmit the virus.
“It is not going to be easy,” Frieden said on Wednesday. “One good thing about Ebola is that we know how to stop it,” he added. “There are misconceptions but we know how it spreads.”
An unnamed epidemiologist from Senegal, the first patient to be treated for Ebola in Germany, was taken to the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf on Wednesday. The clinic specializes in treating contagious diseases and sports a brand-new isolation ward. The unnamed patient had been transferred from a hospital in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
The patient was transferred from the airport by ambulance – with a police escort.
“We hope that his condition will improve quickly and that he will recover fully from the disease,” World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told DW on Wednesday.
More than 240 health workers have contracted the virus in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and about 120 have died.
“This is not only an Ebola outbreak – it is a humanitarian emergency, and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response,” Lindis Hurum, the emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Monrovia, said in a statement released Wednesday.
mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)