Recent reports from Africa are creating unnecessary panic and apprehension. The number of dead from Ebola is growing, but it is at a steady pace. There are no signs that the current Ebola outbreak is reaching far and wide.
First of all Ebola is a virus that kills so quickly, it often hampers its own spread. What is worrisome about Ebola is its mortality rate, and the fact that there are no cures or pharmaceutical remedies for it.
Even if the current Ebola epidemic poses some challenges, since it has crossed borders, most of the people infected are people who are not traveling very far, and are usually laborers who cross borders to find work. They are certainly not the kind of people who can afford to fly or are traveling to Europe and beyond.
The other item that concerns doctors, but not unduly, is the fact that Ebola has reached some large urban centers. However, its onset and mortality are so fast, that if a widespread epidemic were to occur, by now its signs would be evident.
A lot of misinformation about the virus and the way it is spread has prompted myriad articles in the alternate media, many incorrect, some even irresponsible.
In fact, medical and international aid groups predict that the epidemic will continue killing and growing for another 2 to 4 months, but almost all cases are tightly related by a definite and clear chain of transmission, so that runaway epidemics are not possible. In addition, the virus is not airborne, and can only be passed through sexual intercourse, and by contact with bodily fluids of the infected victims.
However, the CIDRAP and the WHO, two of the leading epidemiological agencies in the world, are working very hard to stop rumors from growing into general panic. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's asst. director general has said that one of the challenges of this disease is that it provokes great anxiety in the area and abroad.
So far, 157 people have contracted it and 95 have died of the Ebola virus in the current epidemic. Although Mali has 9 suspected cases, none have yet been confirmed in the laboratory, except for two that have tested negative to the virus.
The medical agencies and the local governments are trying to look actively for cases before they reach the critical stage, when they are more infectious. This and quarantines together, are a very effective method for interrupting the chain of transmission.
The latest outbreak alert for Ebola in the WHO roster goes back to 4/7, indicating that the epidemic is not progressing rapidly and that numbers, although rising, are not doing so in an unusual or unpredictable way.
In fact, the WHO has recommended that travel restrictions only be made to the four affected states, Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone.
The latest BBC report indicates that some patients are actually recovering from the deadly virus, due to the prompt intervention of doctors before the disease reaches its critical stages. In fact, 7 Ebola patients have so far recovered.
The only concern the WHO has is for the country of Senegal, a popular tourist destination. Almost one million people travel to Senegal for vacation. There however, health authorities are ready and have put in place a well rehearsed plan to stop the epidemic if it should ever reach there.
The WHO has also stressed that Ebola is a disease that they have long experience in and have learned to control long ago. All hands on the ground just need to work hard to inform the people and make sure that people understand what they have to do to avoid contagion.
Source: CIDRAP/WHO/BBC 4.10.14