AT LEAST one faith-based charity has joined the fight to contain
an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the West African states of
Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone.
The Evangelical relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, based in
the United States, is supplying emergency medical supplies to its
partner, the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital, near the
Liberian capital, Monrovia, and providing air transport for medical
personnel and supplies to various parts of the country. It is also
conducting public-education and awareness campaigns.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that, so far,
187 suspected cases - including 111 deaths - had been reported,
mostly in southern Guinea, which has never experienced the disease
The assistant director-general of the WHO, Keija Fukuda,
described it as "one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we
have ever dealt with", which could take another four months to
contain. Its geographical spread makes it difficult to contain -
past outbreaks have involved much smaller areas.
Ebola is highly contagious, and one of the most lethal viruses
known to humans. It kills between 25 per cent and 90 per cent of
its victims. The virus leads to haemorrhagic fever, which causes
muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, and, in severe cases,
organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.
Recent research, however, has shown that victims can develop an
immunity to some strains of the virus. In Guinea, workers with the
French medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported
several cases where patients recovered full health.
Marie-Claire Lamah, a doctor in MSF's treatment centre in the
Guinea capital, Conakry, said: "When the first patient came out
from the treatment centre, I was so happy, and the whole team was
MSF is now having to assure communities that the patients are no
longer contagious. "We explain to the families and neighbours that
the patient is now negative, and doesn't present any risks to
anyone - they can be kissed, touched, and hugged without any risk
of contagion," MSF's health-promoter Ella Watson-Stryker said.
Last Friday, an angry crowd attacked a treatment centre in
Macenta, 265 miles from Conakry, accusing its staff of bringing the
disease to the town.