West Africa is currently undergoing the worst outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first seen in 1976. Ebola is a virus that causes an acute, serious illness and is often fatal if untreated. It can be spread through human contact with an infected animal and can then be spread through human to human transmission based on contact with infected bodily fluids. The first case of this outbreak was in Guinea and has since spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal. As of September 10th, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia continue to report new cases of the virus. Nigeria and Senegal have not reported any new confirmed case since September 5th and August 29th respectively. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is also suffering an outbreak of Ebola, although one of a different strain. The first cases of Ebola related to the current outbreak were reported as early as March and as of September 12th, there have been 4,784 reported cases. However, there are many unreported cases and so the actual number of people infected with Ebola is thought to be significantly higher. This virus is severe with no known proven treatment and no vaccine. This severity is highlighted by the number of deaths due to Ebola, totaling 2,400 since September 12th.
The situation occurring in West Africa is heartbreaking, with an approximate case fatality rate of 52%. US scientists currently predict the outbreak will last 12-18 months with the WHO estimating 20,000 cases of Ebola before the virus is contained (however long-term predictions like this are extremely variable and subject to change). Some of the main barriers to containing the outbreak include limited beds and difficulty in establishing treatment centers. In addition, many health workers have become infected themselves due to a lack of infection prevention protocol in place. There is also significant stigma surrounding the virus and community resistance poses a threat to containment.
There are currently no confirmed cases of Ebola in Ghana and the country remains hopeful it will stay free of the outbreak. We recently spoke with the Regional Medical Director of the Northern Region, Dr. Twumasi, who reported he had just come from weeks of meetings in Accra discussing the Ebola outbreak and prevention methods. We continue to hope for the best for all of those affected by this outbreak and that it will be resolved sooner than predicted.
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