By Naomi Friedman
Although there have been efforts to contain the recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, the spread of the virus into Europe from Africa has sounded international alarms over the realization of an epi- demic.
The new strain of Ebola has already claimed hundreds of lives in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. According to the most recent reports from the Center for Disease Control, more than 1400 individuals have been killed and over 2000 are infected with the virus in West Africa.
As of Sunday, August 24, the first Briton has been confirmed to be infected with the Ebola Virus. He is being transported back to England in a specially adapted Royal Air Force cargo plane, which transferred him from an ambulance in Sierra Leone. The male healthcare worker reportedly became ill while working with Ebola patients in the newly infected Democratic Republic of Congo.
This marks growing concern over the virus, as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) rush to contain the outbreak, which is spreading quickly through West Africa and expanding into two different identified strains.
WHO has made the Ebola outbreak a global public health emergency and authorized the use of largely untested treatments to combat the deadly disease. Foreign medical aid has fallen short as workers compete with the virus, which, in the victim’s last days, results in agonizing muscular pain, vomiting, diarrhea and catastrophic hemorrhages as the organs break down.
Chief of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Joanne Liu, said of the situation, “It is deteriorating faster, and moving faster, than we can respond to” (France24). According to the MSF, it could take upwards of six months to gain control over the epidemic, causing some countries to take more drastic measures to contain the disease.
Countries severely affected by Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa have been pressed to screen all people at international airports, seaports, and major land crossings to stop its spread. The UN asks that any person with an illness consistent with Ebola not be allowed to travel unless it is part of an ap- propriate medical evacuation. Actions such as travel bans and reduction of major business operations, like banks, have been steadily increasing as the epidemic widens.
As of August 19, Cameroon has decided to close all of its borders with Nigeria in a desperate at- tempt to halt the spread of the virus. Minister of Communications and government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary said of the difficult choice, “The government has taken the decision to protect its population because it is much better to prevent than cure the Ebola virus” (Reuters Africa).
In Sierra Leone, fear of the disease is mounting as a new amendment has been passed which allows for anyone who hides an Ebola victim to risk jail time. WHO believes this phenomenon has caused authorities to underestimate the extent of the outbreak, leading to a slower reaction time in halting the virus’ progression.
Worldwide, measures to contain the disease are starting to pick up. The International Olympics Committee agreed that athletes from Ebola-hit countries would not be competing in pool events and combat sports at the Youth Olympics that are currently taking place in China in order to ensure the safety of all participants.
Not only does the rapid spread of the virus pose serious health concerns, but it could also result in long-term effects on the world economy. In Nigeria, the proliferation of Ebola threatens to disrupt the oil and gas industry. International companies and local operations could be forced to evacuate their staff and shut down if the outbreak persists, resulting in a massive economic fallout, as 95 percent of Nigeria’s exports rely on petroleum.
Moreover, West Africa, an already impoverished region of the world, must now face larger debts in trying to control the outbreak. Liberia has spent twelve million dollars attempting to deal with the crisis between April and June alone.
WHO has commented that the speed and extent of this outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease is “unprecedented,” but they are continuing to fight the epidemic, and a new strategy plan to combat the disease’s progression in West Africa is reported to be released in the coming weeks (Reuters)