West Africa feels knock-on effects of battle against Ebola

August 10, 2014 by Rod Mac Johnson

West Africa was counting the cost of measures to contain the deadly Ebola epidemic on Sunday, as unprecedented restrictions caused snarled transport, food shortages and soaring prices.

"We are trying to cope," said Joseph Kelfalah, the mayor of Kenema, an eastern district of Sierra Leone that is under strict quarantine along with nearby Kailahun, but said food prices were "escalating".

Under the country's "Operation Octopus", some 1,500 soldiers and police have been deployed to enforce the quarantines, turning people away at checkpoints and accompanying searching for people who may have contracted the virus.

"Only essential officials and food items are being allowed in after intensive searches," deputy police chief Karrow Kamara told AFP.

Tribal authorities are imposing huge fines for failure to report cases of Ebola, which has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in west Africa in the worst outbreak in four decades.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the countries hardest hit by the epidemic, which the UN World Health Organization has called an international health emergency.

Liberia has been particularly affected by since declaring its state of emergency on Wednesday. It, too, has deployed soldiers to restrict movement, notably from the worst-affected northern provinces to the capital Monrovia.

'People will die of hunger'

Sando Johnson, a senator in the province of Bomi, northwest of Monrovia, said the restrictions were "severe" and warned people would die of starvation if they are not relaxed.

"My county has been completely quarantined because soldiers don't allow anyone to get out of the area and they don't allow anyone to go there," he told AFP by telephone.

"A bag of rice that sold for 1,300 LD ($14, 11 euros) is now selling for 1,800 LD. The poor people will die of hunger for God's sake."

Health workers have been tasked with raising awareness about the disease which causes fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

An emergency helpline set up by Liberia's Ebola taskforce to provide information on the virus had received 1,800 calls by Friday.

"Aside from lots of confusion, aside from sick persons, aside from the fact that we also want to create awareness, this call centre is there to create calm but to also disseminate information and to gather information that can be shared with the national task force," said Barkue Tubman, a spokesman for the centre in Monrovia.

The virus is spread by close contact with an infected person through bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and tissue. In Sierra Leone 10 motorcycle taxi drivers have been infected after unknowingly carrying Ebola patients, according to the president of the National Bike Riders Association, David Sesay.

The two-wheeled taxis are an indispensable form of transport in remote areas of west Africa where most roads are unpaved.

Efforts to halt the epidemic have been stymied by ignorance, distrust of Westerners and false rumours. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has warned against spreading false information "which can lead to mass hysteria, panic and misdirection."

Romania and Spain cases

A Romanian man was admitted to a Bucharest hospital specialising in infectious diseases on suspicion of having contracted Ebola in Nigeria.

The 51-year-old patient who returned from Nigeria on July 25 exhibited symptoms of the virus but they could also indicate malaria or typhoid fever, a hospital source said on Sunday.

Nigeria has reported 13 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola, whose incubation period ranges from two to 21 days.

Meanwhile the Spanish government said a Spanish priest infected with Ebola will be treated with an experimental drug that has been used on two Americans.

The drug called ZMapp arrived at Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III hospital where the 75-year-old missionary was being treated in isolation, the health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The Roman Catholic priest, Miguel Pajares, was one of three people who tested positive for Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia where he worked.

The World Health Organization said Saturday that clinical trials of vaccines against Ebola should begin soon and will likely be ready for widespread use by early next year.

Explore further: Spanish missionary in Liberia tests positive for Ebola

Related Stories

Spanish missionary in Liberia tests positive for Ebola

August 5, 2014
A Spanish missionary working in Liberia has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, the aid organisation he works for said Tuesday.

Battle to contain Ebola intensifies with Nigeria seeking volunteers

August 9, 2014
The battle to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak continued on Saturday with Nigeria appealing for volunteers to help halt the spread of the virus and Guinea shutting its land borders with two west African neighbours.

Nigeria says doctor who treated Ebola patient has contracted virus

August 4, 2014
Nigerian authorities said Monday that a doctor in Lagos who treated a Liberian victim of Ebola has contracted the virus, the second confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa's largest city.

Ebola sparks states of emergency across west Africa

August 7, 2014
A fast-spreading Ebola epidemic sparked states of emergency in overwhelmed west African nations Thursday as the death toll neared 1,000 and an elderly Spanish missionary was evacuated for treatment at home.

Canada quarantines patient with Ebola-like symptoms

August 9, 2014
A patient back from Nigeria who showed symptoms of fever and flu—possible signs of Ebola—was put in isolation in a Toronto-area hospital, Canadian health officials said late Friday.

5 things to know about Ebola outbreak in W. Africa

July 28, 2014
(AP)—There has been panic and fear about the deadly Ebola disease spreading ever since Nigerian health officials reported Friday that a Liberian man sick with the disease had traveled to Togo and then Nigeria before dying. ...

Recommended for you

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 ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

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. ...

0 comments

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.