Ebola cases fall but battle is not over

30 January 2015

reuters

Beating Ebola: a decommissioned treatment unit

Beating Ebola: a decommissioned treatment unit

THE director of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, has warned against complacency and "donor fatigue" in the fight against the Ebola virus, as it was announced that the number of cases is in decline.

The virus, which began in Liberia more than a year ago, has killed more than 8000 people in West Africa, including 3000 in Sierra Leone, the worst-affected country. Although it is still seeing dozens of new cases a day, its government has now lifted strict quarantine regulations, including travel restrictions that had sealed off six of its 14 districts.

Lifting the restrictions, the Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Bai Koroma, announced that "victory was in sight" . But Dr Chan warned this week: "Cases are clearly declining in all three countries, but we must maintain the momentum and guard against complacency and donor-fatigue. Getting to zero cases of Ebola in the three remaining countries is our collective goal. This can be done, but is not going to be easy. As we have seen time and time again, an upsurge in new cases can follow a single unsafe burial or viol-ent act of community resistance. Both of these high-risk situations are still occurring."

The first batch of an experimental vaccine has arrived in Liberia and will be distributed as part of a clinical trial.

The chief executive of Oxfam GB, Mark Goldring, has said that millions of dollars of aid are needed to help West Africa recover, and called for a "Marshall-type" plan (the post-Second World War project for European recovery).

Paulina Johnson, who moved from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Cambridge, and now works for the overseas disabilities charity, CBM UK, said this week that she had been prevented by the travel restrictions from going home to bury her mother .

"It was very hard not to be there to bury my mother and celebrate her life with my family. I am trying from over here in the UK to advise my family to do the right thing, and keep themselves safe."

Ms Johnson is responsible for her two teenage nieces who still live in Freetown, after her younger sister died.

"Though, thankfully, none of my family died from Ebola, the virus has had a huge impact on their lives; schools have been closed, and food prices have risen."

One of her cousins is a doctor who worked closely with Dr Martin Salia, who died in the US after treating Ebola victims in Sierra Leone.

"We were very worried for him. Once he even phoned from the cemetery where he was burying a friend, but he said to us 'someone has to do it.'"

Fighting malaria. The fight against Africa's other big killer, malaria, is continuing throughout the Ebola virus outbreak. Médecins Sans Frontières has handed out 1.8 million anti-malarial treatments.

Many patients with malaria reported being unable to get treatment at health centres, where they were turned away by staff who feared they had Ebola; symptoms of both diseases can be mistaken for each other.

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