Health ministers, international
organizations, representatives from airlines and mining companies, lawyers and
health experts from 11 African countries will all be meeting in Accra, Ghana
this Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the worsening Ebola outbreak.
The outbreak, which
started in Guinea, has now spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, infecting 763
people and killing 468.
Read: Deadly new Ebola strain found
This recent Ebola
outbreak is the largest and deadliest Ebola outbreak the world has seen, and
the World Health Organization (WHO) says that drastic action needs to be taken
to suppress the further spreading of the disease.
Ebola is a haemorrhagic
fever that kills up to 90 percent of those who are infected. The disease first
appeared in 1976 in a remote area of Sudan and in a village near the Ebola
River, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The origins of the
disease are unknown, but the illness can spread among both human and nonhuman
primates, such as monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. Recent evidence seems to
point towards fruit bats as the original hosts of Ebola.
Symptoms of this disease
can begin to show two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, and may
include fever, diarrhoea, throat or muscle pains, and vomiting, to name a few.
Read: Ebola hits Ugandan health workers
People who contract this disease often die when they begin bleeding internally
and externally, causing their organs to shut down. There is currently no cure
for Ebola, and the disease is able to spread quite easily through exposure with
an infected person’s body fluids.
Therefore, the only way
to delay and possibly cease a further outbreak is to isolate those who are
currently infected to ensure that no one else will be exposed.
According to WHO, there
are three key factors contributing to the recent acceleration of the spread of Ebola:
a large number of activities occurring along the borders of highly infected
countries; dense city populations; and cultural and traditional burial
practices in rural communities.
factor complicating the effort to control the disease is the way families
attempt to transport their deceased family members, which has contributed to
the amplification of Ebola-affected areas.
Read: Ebola spreads panic better than disease
Additionally, there has
been a great deal of fear in Ebola stricken communities, causing citizens to
show hostility towards medical staff.
Some people have shown so
much hostility towards these medical teams that they can no longer enter a
number of villages to do follow ups on people who have possibly been in contact
with Ebola patients; people who have been in contact with infected patients
must be closely monitored for 21 days before being cleared as Ebola-free.
Myths and superstitions about
Ebola have also hindered aid efforts, as international efforts have seen
reluctance among infected citizens to go to the hospital.
The situation had gotten
so bad that the Sierra Leone government published a fact sheet last week that disputed
some of these myths.
Just a month
after the Ebola outbreak started, Gambia began banning flights from Ebola-affected
areas; airlines would drop off passengers, but not pick them up from these regions.
Liberian authorities have
also implemented their own safety measures by declaring that they would
prosecute those found hiding anyone suspected to have Ebola; some traditional
doctors, faith healers and family members were found to be removing patients
from hospitals in an attempt to cure them with their own traditional methods.
WHO has also taken the
initiative to deploy more than 150 expert teams to help control the Ebola
However, despite all of
these precautions, the outbreak has yet to slow down. Read more:
Threat of Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Deadly Ebola raging in DRC
Guinea's first Ebola survivors return home
Sources: Eye Witness News, The Washington Post, International Business Times, BBC and Sierra Leone Health Ministry