The head of the Center for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, has stated that the Ebola epidemic now plaguing West Africa is only going to get worse before it gets better. According to Mr. Frieden, in order to bring the epidemic under control a massive and unprecedented response will be needed.
Right now, health ministers and other key officials from across West Africa are meeting to discuss the situation and coordinate efforts to bring the raging epidemic under control. While the WHO, CDC, and other international authorities are stepping up their efforts to bring the disease under control, resources at both the local and international scale are scarce.
Already, the Ebola outbreak has proven to be the worst in history, and a slow footed response at the beginning of the epidemic all but ensured that it would reach such large scale proportions. With no end to the outbreak in sight, the situation is only going to get worse.
Ebola Epidemic Grinding West Africa To A Halt
The total number of known cases of Ebola currently stands at 3,069 (by the time you read this, estimates may well have been raised). 1,550 people have succumbed to the disease, a death rate good for nearly 50 percent of all those infected. Most shocking of all, 40 percent of these cases have come in the last three weeks.
Beyond the number of people infected and who have succumbed to the disease, and of course their families, the number of people being affected by the consequences is staggering. Countries and cities across Africa are literally shutting down. Senegal has closed its borders to Guinea and banned aircraft from flying in from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, Nigeria announced that it would close schools until at least October in an effort to keep Ebola from spreading to and within the country. Hospitals, labs, and other facilities are also being forced to close as the disease is overwhelming them. In order to prevent such facilities from becoming breeding grounds some must simply be closed.
Meanwhile Emirates Air, which is the largest aircraft carrier in the world by traffic has already shut down all of its flights to West Africa. South Africa has issued a travel ban to infected areas, and many other countries are considering travel bans of their own.
The WHO: Ebola Outbreak Underestimated
Further, the actual numbers being reported by health authorities may be vastly underestimated. Such estimates are generally built on confirmed cases, but the actual number of people infected could be much higher
As high as the official outbreak numbers are, the WHO believes that the true extent of the outbreak is being under reported. Given the social and economic development factors involved, the extent of the numbers could even be vastly underestimated.
Right now many people are literally trying to hide from health care officials. In some instances, people actually fear that the disease was created and spread by the health officials themselves. In other cases, people are afraid of reprisals from their communities.
Others simply deny that they or their loved ones have the disease. Taking them to a clinic treating Ebola, on the other hand, will all but guarantee that they get the disease, or at least that’s what many people in infected areas believe.
Further, many funeral and burial processes in West Africa involve a lot of contact with the body of the deceased. Any people who handle the body of someone who has died from Ebola will be at high risk of contracting the disease.
These social factors are making efforts to bring the disease under control even more difficult. For now, the disease looks like it is set to rage through West Africa and without a massive and coordinated response by local and international authorities, Ebola may prove to be all but uncontrollable.