Sierra Leone is now the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, which is shifting away from its source in neighboring Guinea, Doctors Without Borders said.
The group is scaling up its response in Sierra Leone, where 22 international and 250 local staff are working, the medical organization said on its website. The situation is worsening in Liberia, where confirmed cases have been reported in seven counties, it said. In Guinea, the group closed a center in Telimele, where 75 percent of patients have recovered, and new cases are falling in Conakry and Gueckedou.
It’s too soon to say the outbreak is under control anywhere, said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva. The decline in cases in Gueckedou, Guinea, may reflect that infected people are hiding rather than coming forward to be treated, Doctors Without Borders said.
“This whole outbreak in general is of concern,” Hartl said by phone today. “From our point of view this is one huge event, and the event as a whole has to be brought under control.”
Hostility and fear are hampering the effort to bring the outbreak under control. Some people don’t believe the disease is real or fear that white researchers have introduced it to experiment on Africans, officials have said.
In Sierra Leone, relatives of patients are refusing to allow medical staff to attend to them, making it difficult to reduce the number of new infections, Brima Kargbo, the coountry’s chief medical officer, said in an interview today. Families are attacking doctors and people are refusing to take infected relatives to health facilities, he said.
The U.S. aid group Samaritan’s Purse threatened to halt operations in Liberia after residents in Lofa County threw stones at workers from the organization, state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System reported today, citing a government health official.
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Kent Brantly, the medical director of the Ebola center run by Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia, Liberia, and Nancy Writebol, a worker at the center, have been infected, the Boone, North Carolina-based charity said yesterday in a statement.
The country had 71 new cases July 21-23, compared with 25 in Liberia and 12 in Guinea, the WHO said this week. Since March, more than 670 people in the three West African countries have died from the virus, making this the worst-ever Ebola outbreak, according to the WHO.
The disease spread to Nigeria when Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government worker infected with Ebola, took a July 20 flight to Lagos and died five days later.
Asky Airlines, based in Lome, Togo, today suspended flights to the capitals of Sierra Leone and Liberia, Freetown and Monrovia, following Nigeria’s Arik Air, which canceled routes to both cities yesterday. Liberia suspended all soccer-related activities as the national league supports the government’s awareness efforts.
Doctors Without Borders has been prevented from visiting several villages, it said. Traditional practices in which the bodies of the deceased are washed and clothed are also spreading the disease.
In the past three weeks, Doctors Without Borders has trained more than 200 health workers to deliver essential information on protecting against Ebola and what action to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of the disease.
The aid group will now focus its efforts on halting the spread of the disease in the area straddling Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where a lack of border checks allows people to move freely by walking or using cars, motorcycles and bicycles.
Early treatment may lead to higher survival rates, experts say. With no cure for the disease, treatment focuses on replenishing fluids, maintaining proper blood pressure, replacing lost blood, and treating related infections.
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