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Liberia cites existential threat as Ebola deaths surge
September 10, 2014, 3:29 pm

West African nations have deployed the military forces to help disinfection and containment efforts, such as the one above in Guinea [Xinhua]

West African nations have deployed the military forces to help disinfection and containment efforts, such as the one above in Guinea [Xinhua]

The Liberian Defense Minister Brownie Samukai told the UN Security Council late on Tuesday that his country is facing an existential threat as Ebola appears to be spreading out of control in Liberia and much of West Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) now says that the death toll has nearly doubled in the past two weeks to reach 2,300 fatalities.

“Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially,” WHO said in a statement about the deadly disease which has already infected at least 4,300 in West Africa.

“The number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in Ebola-specific treatment centers. Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks,” the statement added.

Liberia is considered the worst hit among Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Health officials say that the country lacks sufficient medical facilities.

Since the outbreak was first reported in Guinea in March 2014, a number of African countries, including the aforementioned, have tightened their borders – with some closing borders off or barring travel to the west of the continent.

Several cities and villages in Liberia, for example, have been cordoned off by the military to prevent the spread of the virus.

But despite these efforts – and an international aid effort to provide medical personnel and experimental drugs – WHO on Tuesday said that the number of infections in West Africa surged by 49 per cent.

“Conventional Ebola control interventions are not having an adequate impact in Liberia, though they appear to be working elsewhere in areas of limited transmission, most notably in Nigeria, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the WHO said in a separate press release.

Meanwhile, the organization reported on Tuesday that a second of its doctors deployed to Sierra Leone has contracted the virus.

WHO says the doctor, who was working at a government-run medical center in the eastern city of Kenema, will be evacuated out of the country.

As international medical authorities continue to warn that the epidemic appears out of control and could infect as many as 20,000 people by the end of the year, the US has announced it will boost its assistance in combating the virus.

“We’re going to have to get US military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there [West Africa] to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world,” US President Barack Obama recently said.

The Ebola virus, also referred to as Ebola hemorrhagic fever because of one of its most visible symptoms, is an incurable disease with a very high fatality rate. It was first identified in 1976.

Some doctors have noted a fatality rate of at least 60 per cent, but WHO says that can be as high as 90 per cent.

Symptoms can appear as early as two days (and as late as three weeks) from infection and first include headaches, sudden weakness, severe fever and chills, throat and muscle pains. This is followed by vomiting and diarrhea.

The virus is known to debilitate multiple organ systems, leading to bleeding – or hemorrhaging.

“This a West African issue or an African issue. This is a global health security issue,” WHO’s Assistant Director-General Dr Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva.

Source: Agencies

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