US warns of more Ebola infections

NEW YORK. — US health officials on Tuesday laid out worst-case and best-case scenarios for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, warning that the number of infected people could explode to at least 1.4 million by mid-January — or peak well below that, if efforts to control the outbreak are ramped up.
The widely varying projections by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention were based on conditions in late August and do not take into account a recent international surge in medical aid for the stricken region.

That burst has given health authorities reason for some optimism.
“I’m confident the most dire projections are not going to come to pass,” CDC chief Dr Tom Frieden said in releasing the report. About 5 800 illnesses and over 2 800 deaths have been counted since the first cases were reported six months ago. But international health authorities have warned that the crisis is probably far worse in reality, with many corpses and infected people hidden or unreported.

A Red Cross team was attacked while collecting bodies believed to be infected with Ebola in south-eastern Guinea, the latest in a string of assaults that are hindering efforts to control the scourge in West Africa.

One Red Cross worker is recovering after being wounded in the neck in Tuesday’s attack in Forecariah, according to Benoit Carpentier, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Family members of the dead initially set upon the six volunteers and vandalised their cars, said Mariam Barry, a resident. Eventually a crowd went to the regional health office, where they threw rocks at the building.

The attack is the most recent in a series that have plagued teams working to bury bodies safely, provide information about Ebola and disinfect public places. The most shocking was the abduction and killing last week in Guinea of eight people, health workers educating people about Ebola and the journalists accompanying them.

Ebola is believed to have infected more than 5 800 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. The outbreak has grown into the world’s largest ever for the disease, partially because it went undetected for months, began in a highly mobile area and has spread to densely populated West African cities. Resistance to efforts to control the disease — from outright denials that Ebola exists to fears that the very people sent to combat it are in fact carriers — has frustrated efforts to end or even slow the disease’s spread in all three of the most affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, say officials.

In April, Doctors Without Borders briefly pulled out its team from the Guinean town of Macenta after their clinic was stoned. In Liberia, the homes of some of the infected have been attacked. Last week, Red Cross workers were threatened in Sierra Leone, Carpentier, the Red Cross spokesman, said.

The disease is so new to this part of the world and so terrifyingly lethal that many people fear all outsiders associated with Ebola, even if they are coming to help, said Meredith Stakem, a health and nutrition adviser for Catholic Relief Services. — AP.


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