Médecins Sans Frontières (AKA Doctors Without Borders) is one of the world’s most respected medical agencies and has proven to be effective at confronting just about any medical emergency. The Ebola outbreak now gripping Western Africa is spiraling out of control and the non profit agency has already maxed out its capacity to fight the disease. The agency released a statement confirming that it can no longer send new medical teams to confront new outbreaks or increase its efforts to control the disease.
Oddly, the World Health Organization and other major international agencies have been doing little to confront and contain the spreading outbreak. The WHO has announced that it is working to ramp up its efforts and is now trying to coordinate with international governments to secure and send resources. So far, however, the organization is focusing more on technical assistance and advisory efforts rather than trying to put boots on the ground.
Ebola: Epidemic spreading across numerous West African Countries
So far, there have been at least 567 confirmed cases and 350 deaths, though the actual number of cases is likely higher. Due to poor local infrastructure and conditions, and a general distrust of doctors, it is likely that many people are not seeking medical help.
Most previous Ebola outbreaks have been limited to backwater villages and areas far away from major cities. This made the disease far easier to contain. The epicenter of the outbreak appears to be the Guinean capital of Conakry and home to some 2 million people.
Long incubation time increasing footprint
The Ebola virus has an incubation period of between 2 days and three weeks. This means once a person contracts the disease, they have plenty of time to leave the area where they originally picked it up. This long incubation time has helped the disease spread to at least 60 locations spanning Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
So far the disease has been limited to West Africa but it may only be a matter of time before it breaks out of the region. The long incubation time could allow the disease to travel pretty much anywhere. So far, numerous countries and airlines have suspended flights from Ebola hit countries, but that may not be enough to keep disease contained. The American embassy and other major embassies remain open in Guinea.
Thankfully, Ebola is not a highly virulent disease, or at least traditional strains aren’t. Normally, Ebola cannot spread until symptoms are visible. Ebola generally spread through human-to-human transmission, meaning that proper safety precautions can keep the disease from spreading. That being said, viruses evolve rapidly and it’s always possible that a new and more virulent strain could emerge.