Latest developments in the Ebola crisis
By admin February 25, 2015


Two major developments in West Africa’s Ebola crisis have occurred in the last few days.  First, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday that it had approved the use of a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola, in the hopes of correctly identifying victims of the disease.  Second, Liberia reopened its borders on Monday, ending a nationwide curfew imposed in August to combat the spread of the virus.

These are the latest occurrences in a crisis that goes back over a year, and has been making headline news since last summer.  The outbreak is believed to have begun with a patient who died in December 2013 in the West African nation of Guinea.  The WHO’s first report on the Ebola outbreak was not released until the end of March 2014; the same month, Guinea declared a national health emergency, and cases began to be reported in Liberia.  By May, Sierra Leone had become infected as well; these three countries have suffered the bulk of the outbreak, which in August 2014 was finally declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO.  The international community has been heavily involved in combating the outbreak, with specialized organizations including the WHO, Doctors Without Borders and the Center for Disease Control providing expertise, logistics, and personnel to the affected countries while the UN and various national governments provided funding.  Since then, the overall Ebola outbreak has slowed, and mostly remained restricted to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, but cases have continued to appear in those three countries.

The slow initial response to the Ebola outbreak was partly due to the fact that no Ebola cases had ever been reported in West Africa before, which meant that health workers were not trained or equipped to deal with it, and did not at first recognize it.  Compounding the problem is the fact that there still is no proven treatment for Ebola, though there are various treatments that can improve a patient’s chances for survival.

While the latest test kit is not a solution to this problem, WHO expects that it will at least help o identify infected individuals earlier.  The new test kit can provide results in 15 minutes, correctly identify 92 percent of patients infected by the disease, an 85 percent of those not infected.  In contrast, the tests that have been used up to this point have usually required 12 to 24 hours for a response, though they are usually a little more accurate.

Liberia’s recent decision involved a reopening of border crossings, a lifting of the nationwide curfew, and the reopening of the nation’s schools, which had been on a five month hiatus.  Of the three nations affected by the Ebola crisis, Liberia shows the most promising results, with only two new cases reported in the week ending February 15th – by contrast, 52 new cases were reported in Guinea and 74 in Sierra Leone.  The President expressed optimism, but also warned against complacency, insisting on adherence to established health protocols at all times to prevent a relapse.

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