Libre: Dealing with Ebola

ACCEPTED as one of the world’s deadliest diseases, Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola for short has put all countries in the world on red alert on the premise that this may spread outside of the three hot-spot countries, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Since its outbreak, 16,203 cases have been reported of which 7,275 people have died (data as of Nov. 28, 2014).

It is a scary disease with a mortality rate of 90 percent if left unattended to, and with no known cure available, though there have been a few survivors through the use of experimental drugs. The report reminded people of “swine flu” that caused about 17,000 deaths in 2010. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the 2010 virus spread to 214 countries and overseas territories.

According to some experts, the chances of an Ebola pandemic is nil. Only through direct contact with an infected person can the virus spread. To prove that point, Petet Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that he would not mind sitting beside an Ebola patient on the London Underground.

There is no shortage of action from various agencies including the WHO to contain the virus. With Western media “localizing” the story, people are alarmed that some of those infected with the virus come back to their homeland for treatment. Those that returned included British nurse William Pooley and Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who have all since recovered. Spanish missionary Miguel Pajares, who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia and was repatriated to Spain for treatment,

died.

It is good to commend foreign health workers who are attending to those affected by the virus but what seems to be a failure is the lack of attention on how local health workers are combating the disease with the limited resources available to them.

While foreign volunteers put out elaborate protective gears to pursue their

humanitarian mission, it is the local health workers who do most of the menial tasks that expose them to contamination. Media and other concerned agencies must ensure that these local heroes are given as much attention and protection as the foreign volunteers.

Mark Doyle, a BBC international development correspondent in Freetown, Sierra Leone explains why the three countries are hardest hit: “The truth is this crisis is taking place in one of the poorest corners of the world. All three worst-affected countries have bad roads, unreliable electricity supplies, severely under-resourced governments and poorly educated populations.”

The WHO aims to isolate and treat 70 percent of patients and safely burying 70 percent of victims in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by December 1. The swift and coordinated action of the various agencies is achieving the targets.

But there is no time for complacency. As Tony Banbury, head of the UN Ebola response mission in West Africa, puts it: “The goal is absolutely zero human cases of Ebola" with a warning that there was still a "huge risk" of the deadly disease spreading to other parts of the world.

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