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Author Topic: Ebola struggle intensifies in Sierra Leone  (Read 298 times)

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Ebola struggle intensifies in Sierra Leone
« on: December 11, 2014, 02:11:55 pm »
The World Health Organization (WHO) and many partners are waging an all-out fight to stop an "ominous spike" in Ebola cases in a remote area of eastern Sierra Leone, the WHO reported today, a day after a top United Nations official said the UN is focusing special efforts on controlling the disease on the western side of the country.

In eastern Sierra Leone, the remote diamond district of Kono, bordering Guinea, is the scene of an outbreak that was overwhelming doctors, nurses, lab techs, and burial teams by the time a WHO rapid response team arrived recently, the WHO said in a press release.

Now the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Sierra Leonean government are "rallying all comers in a massive buildup to contain this burgeoning Ebola outbreak which ran the risk of continuing to grow and remaining hidden as world attention focuses on urban centers," the WHO said.

Meanwhile, total Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone crept up to 17,908, and the death toll reached 6,373, signaling respective increases of 108 and 42 since the last report 2 days ago, according to a separate WHO announcement today. But the numbers do not include any new data from Liberia.

As of Dec 7, Guinea had recorded 2,292 cases and 1,428 deaths, for increases of 9 and 16, while Sierra Leone had counted 7,897 cases and 1,768 deaths, up by 99 and 26, according to the WHO figures. The agency said Liberia has not provided data for Dec 4 to 7; the totals there stayed at 7,719 cases and 3,177deaths.

In the week that ended Dec 7, Sierra Leona had 397 new confirmed Ebola cases, according to the WHO update.

'The ears of the hippo'
In response to "intel" from Sierra Leone's Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), the WHO said it sent an epidemiologist to Kono district 10 days ago to find out if reported cases there told the whole story. Soon thereafter, the WHO and CDC sent more investigators, who found a "grim scene," the agency said.

"Our team met heroic doctors and nurses at their wits end, exhausted burial teams and lab techs, all doing the best they could but they simply ran out of resources and were overrun with gravely ill people,” said Dr. Olu Olushayo, WHO national coordinator for Ebola Epidemic Response in Sierra Leone, as quoted by the WHO.

In the 5 days before the WHO team arrived, 25 people had died in a part of the area's hospital serving as an Ebola holding center, the WHO said. Subsequently, two teams buried 87 bodies in 11 days, including a nurse, an ambulance driver, and a janitor who had helped remove bodies.

Olushayo said scattered villages in 8 of 15 chiefdoms in Kono have been hit by Ebola. He described the district as having "moderate transmission," the WHO reported.

However, the MOHS's director of disease prevention, Amara Jambai, MD, suggesting that the current picture of the situation is incomplete, commenting, "We are only seeing the ears of the hippo," the WHO said.

The agency said multiple response efforts in the area continue, with several nongovernmental organizations helping. The International Federation of the Red Cross plans to build a new Ebola treatment center while setting up a temporary safe holding unit, among other steps. The United States and United Kingdom are helping to pay for the efforts.

Western Sierra Leone worries Nabarro
Meanwhile, the UN is "focusing attention on bringing down the high levels of transmission in western Sierra Leone and ensuring that cases do not cross the border from Guinea into neighboring Mali," David Nabarro, MD, UN special envoy on Ebola, said yesterday, according to a UN News story.

In western Sierra Leone, the specific hot spots are Freetown (the capital) and Port Loko, where transmission is high and a much stronger response is needed, Nabarro told reporters in Geneva. He noted that the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the WHO, the national government, and other groups are already working in the area to make sure there are enough beds and burial teams.

A second area of concern, Nabarro said, is the northern part of Guinea's interior, known as Guinea Forestiere, according to the UN report. "UNMEER is also working very closely with Mali to ensure cases do not cross the border and if they do, that they could be dealt with very quickly,” he said, noting that he has been working on that effort with the president of Mali and UN peacekeepers stationed there.

The UN said Nabarro also briefed the Council on Foreign Relations via video link yesterday, telling them he believed that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone would have the needed response capacity by the end of January.

In other comments to reporters, Nabarro said the N'Zerekore Treatment Centre in Guinea, headed by a doctor from Niger, is "a truly extraordinary" example of international, African, and local cooperation. The center was built with funds from the European Union and constructed in 25 days of 24-hour shifts by the UN World Food Programme with Red Cross volunteers and others.
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