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Ebola virus is spreading, charity warns UN

05 September 2014


Out of quar­ant­ine: people celebrate in a street outside the West Point township in Monrovia, Liberia, after the authorities reopened the  slum, in which 50,000 people had been barricaded, many without access to food or safe water, to contain an out­break of the Ebola virus. The area had been sealed off more than a week ago, sparking unrest

Out of quar­ant­ine: people celebrate in a street outside the West Point township in Monrovia, Liberia, after the authorities reopened the  slu...

A GLOBAL military response is needed to try to curb the Ebola-virus epidemic, the head of the charity Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has told the United Nations.

The charity has warned that the world is losing the battle to contain the virus, which has killed more than 1550 of the 3000 people infected so far. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that about 20,000 people will be infected over the next three months in the hot spots of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, and that it will take six months to bring the epidemic under control.

Dr Joanne Liu of MSF told the UN on Tuesday: "In West Africa, cases and deaths continue to surge. Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed. Health workers on the front lines are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers. Others have fled in fear, leaving people without care for even the most common illnesses. Entire health systems have crumbled.

"Ebola treatment centres are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered. It is impossible to keep up with the sheer number of infected people pouring into facilities. In Sierra Leone, infectious bodies are rotting in the streets. Rather than building new Ebola care centres in Liberia, we are forced to build crematoria."

So far, international leaders had responded only by joining a "global coalition of inaction", she said. Military and civilian teams capable of dealing with a biological disaster were needed immediately in West Africa as the spread of Ebola "will not be prevented without a massive deployment". Existing measures, such as forced quarantine, were only driving people underground and breeding fear and unrest, she said.

Anglican dioceses in affected areas are working with government agencies to spread the message about disease control as well as distribute food to those in quarantined areas.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned that food harvests in affected countries are at serious risk, and shortages are likely. Fear of shortages has resulted in huge price rises.

The WHO confirmed this week that 31 people have now died in a separate Ebola outbreak in the Congo. The epidemic in West Africa has also affected Nigeria, and now Senegal, where the first case was confirmed this week.

The only British sufferer, the volunteer nurse William Pooley, is said to be improving. He is in an isolation ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He contracted the disease while working at a hospital in Sierra Leone.

Public Health England has instructed emergency staff to ask all those phoning in for medical help whether they have recently returned from West Africa.

The Team Vicar of Newbury, the Revd Paul Cowan, phoned for an ambulance from his home when a man collapsed in the church cloister, and he was told to ask the man if he had been to West Africa recently. He said that he was disturbed to be asked to feel the man's skin and look under his clothing for bruising.

"If the ambulance service are fearing an outbreak of Ebola and furnishing their staff with the appropriate questions, why am I being asked to feel this man's skin and handle his clothing?" he asked.

South Central Ambulance Services said: "In light of the current Ebola outbreak, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) follows nationally set guidelines from Public Health England (PHE) for those who dial 111 or 999 having recently returned from West Africa. . . They will be asked nationally pre-set questions from PHE. This will ensure that SCAS control-room staff can give advice to patients and ensure that they receive the appropriate treatment depending on their condition or type of incident that is presented."

A radio station broadcasting from Bradford for stations in West Africa has produced a series of programmes on the Ebola virus. The work of Nick Mangeolles, the PCC treasurer of St Clement's, Bradford, the programmes have been broadcast in French and are also being translated into Portuguese. Mr Mangeolles said that he had received a "positive and thankful" response from radio stations, and requests for more programmes.

On Wednesday, William Pooley, the first British person to contract Ebola during the latest outbreak ( News, 29 August), was discharged from the Royal Free Hospital in London, after making a full recovery.

He said: "I was very lucky in several ways: firstly in the standard of care I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in West Africa at the moment.

"And my symptoms never progressed to the worst stage of the disease, I've seen people dying horrible deaths, I had some unpleasant symptoms, but nothing compared to the worst of the disease."


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