W. African nations begin crisis talks as Ebola spreads (Update)

July 2, 2014 by Nana Boakye-Yiadom

Health ministers from across western Africa met on Wednesday to plan "drastic action" against the world's deadliest-ever Ebola epidemic as dozens of new cases continued to emerge.

There have been 759 confirmed or suspected cases of the haemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, with 467 people dead.

The new death toll represented a rise of 129—or 38 percent—since the UN agency's last bulletin given just a week ago.

"This makes the ongoing Ebola outbreak the largest in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread," the WHO said in a statement announcing the two-day conference, which opened in Ghana's capital Accra, with 11 west African health ministers attending.

"Decisions taken at this meeting will be critical in addressing the current and future outbreaks," it said.

Since the region's first ever epidemic of the deadly and highly contagious fever broke out in Guinea in January, the WHO has sent in more than 150 experts to help tackle the regional crisis.

Despite the efforts of the UN agency and other health workers, there has been a "significant increase" in the rate of new cases and deaths in recent weeks, the WHO said.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which is known by its French initials MSF, said last week that the spread of the virus, which has had a mortality rate of up to 90 percent in previous outbreaks, was "out of control", with more than 60 outbreak hotspots.

The agency has warned that Ebola could spread to other countries, warning those hardest hit could struggle to contain the disease.

The agency's top Ebola specialist Pierre Formenti told AFP last month that the recent surge in cases had come in part because efforts to contain the virus had been relaxed too quickly after the outbreak appeared to slow down in April.

"One case can restart an entire epidemic," he warned, justifying the dramatic measures taken to contain Ebola, which is spread via bodily fluids including sweat, meaning just touching an infected person is enough to spread the virus.

Unstoppable bleeding

Ministers from Guinea, where 413 confirmed, suspected and probable cases have surfaced so far including 303 deaths, and Liberia, which has seen 107 cases and 65 deaths, will take part in the meeting.

Sierra Leone, which has recorded 239 cases and 99 deaths, will also be represented at the conference.

In addition, officials from Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, along with Ghana and countries as far afield as Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been invited, the WHO said.

They will be joined by a host of UN agencies and other aid organisations including MSF and the Red Cross, as well as personnel from disease control centres in western Africa, the United States, Britain and the European Union.

The WHO has described the current Ebola epidemic as one of the most challenging since the virus was first identified in 1976 in what is now DR Congo.

That outbreak, the deadliest until this year, killed 280 people, according to WHO figures.

Ebola can fell its victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea—in some cases shutting down organs and causing unstoppable bleeding.

No specific medicine or vaccine exists for the virus, which is named after a small river in the DR Congo.

"So far we are free from Ebola but we cannot rest on our laurels," a spokesman for Ghana's health ministry told AFP.

"We can't afford to have Ebola in Ghana and we also need to stop this from spreading in the other west African nations."

Explore further: WHO urges 'drastic action' on Ebola, calls 11-nation meeting (Update)

Related Stories

WHO urges 'drastic action' on Ebola, calls 11-nation meeting (Update)

June 26, 2014
The World Health Organization on Thursday called for "drastic action" to fight the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, as it announced an 11-nation meeting to address the growing crisis.

Death toll in W.African Ebola outbreak rises to 467: WHO

July 1, 2014
The number of people believed to have died from Ebola in west Africa has risen sharply to 467, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

Sierra Leone doubles Ebola death toll

June 9, 2014
Sierra Leone doubled its death toll from the highly contagious Ebola virus on Monday, as international aid organisations struggled to contain the deadly epidemic gripping west Africa.

Ebola toll rises to 74 in Guinea

April 29, 2014
Guinea said Tuesday 74 people had died so far this year in one of the worst ever outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

Guinea frets as Ebola virus spreads

June 19, 2014
A second spike in Ebola virus cases has panicked residents and health officials in Guinea, who fear a west African outbreak of the killer disease may now be out of control.

Sierra Leone reports two Ebola deaths, 12 cases

May 30, 2014
Health officials in Sierra Leone say there have been two deaths from Ebola and a dozen other cases of the deadly disease.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

flumoxed
not rated yet Jul 02, 2014
The article says "no specific medicine exists..", while Tekmira Pharmaceuticals has an ebola drug currently in clinical trials in healthy humans, this should instead be used in actual patients.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.