Mapping The Africa’s Ebola Outbreaks
Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases on Earth, with a fatality rate as high as 90%. It causes bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth and rectum and a bloody full-body rash leading to a quick demise. It’s one of a handful of diseases that are so deadly that governments consider it a threat to national security. Luckily, so far the cumulative death toll from Ebola has been limited to sporadic epidemics in Africa, although that may change. Here, courtesy of Blooomberg, is a map of Ebola’s African outbreaks in recent history.
This map is relevant because as has been reported previously, In March, Ebola was reported in Guinea and neighboring Liberia, killing 93 people out of 151 suspected cases in the worst outbreak in seven years. While previous epidemics have affected larger populations, what’s unusual this time is how the disease has spread. Originating in small towns in southeast Guinea, the virus traveled 660 kilometers (410 miles) to the coastal capital of Conakry. Earlier outbreaks have been in remote locations. The spread of the disease is fueled by poor health infrastructure and hygiene practices. Western Africa has an acute shortage of doctors; Guinea has just 0.1 physicians per 1,000 people, among the lowest ratios in the world. International aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders sent specialist teams with biohazard suits to set up isolation units and contain the outbreak. Ebola jumps to humans from infected animals that live in the rainforest through contact with blood and other secretions from chimpanzees, gorillas, bats and other species. It spreads among humans the same way. Sick people begin to erupt with symptoms two to 21 days after exposure, leaving health-care workers and family members the most at risk. To prevent the disease from spreading, Guinea has forbidden the sale and eating of bats. Senegal closed its southern border with Guinea and governments around the world are on high alert
Researchers think fruit bats are the most likely host of Ebola, which was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Outbreaks have also been reported in Congo Republic, Uganda and Sudan and are typically contained within a few months. Prior to the current wave, a total of 2,387 cases had led to 1,590 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. There are no drugs or vaccines approved to treat or prevent Ebola. The rarity of the disease and its prevalence in rural areas of poor African nations doesn’t provide enough incentive for big drugmakers to tackle the virus. Instead, smaller biotechnology firms and government-funded labs have taken up the challenge. The quick and horrible death of Ebola victims and the potential threat of an epidemic was captured in the 1994 best-selling non-fiction thriller “The Hot Zone.” It’s also considered a possible vehicle for terrorism. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the virus as a Category A bioterrorism agent, alongside anthrax and smallpox, compelling an expensive search for remedies.
Ebola doesn’t travel through the air, making it harder to transmit than other pathogens, such as influenza, as long as adequate health-care practices are followed. Other diseases kill many more people. Influenza kills up to half a million people a year around the globe, and resurgent diseases such as tuberculosis and the growth of antibiotic resistance are a bigger focus for global public health organizations. While Ebola is unlikely to leave Africa, the stigma and fear associated with it can prompt people to flee to hospitals outside the affected area, spreading the disease across borders and around the continent. That panic gives governments an excuse to impose travel and trade restrictions on the affected countries each time Ebola emerges from the forest.
And the latest news in the ongoing underreported epidemic, explianable considering the major US “news” outlet refuses to shift from its 24/7 coverage of the disappearance of flight MH370 (which may have been discovered today), is that an Ebola isolation center in Guinea was attacked by the public which has decided to take vigilante order into its own hands.
Officials in Guinea are condemning an attack on a health center where Ebola patients are being isolated from the public.
In a government statement issued Saturday, authorities said the support of aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders is essential to controlling the deadly disease.
The violence took place in the town of Macenta in southern Guinea where at least 14 people have died.
A total of 86 people have died so far from Ebola in Guinea and two other confirmed deaths have been reported in neighboring Liberia.
Aid workers have tried to inform people about how the disease is spread, though rumors and misinformation have led to panic amid the first outbreak ever in Guinea.