31 July 2014
Last updated at 21:49
The head of the World Health Organization and leaders of West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak are to announce a joint $100m (£59m; 75m euro) response plan.
They will meet in Guinea on Friday to launch the initiative aimed at tackling a virus which has claimed 729 lives.
Sierra Leone’s president has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak after 233 people died there.
Ebola spreads through human contact with a sufferer’s bodily fluids.
Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.
Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, with patients having a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.
‘A new level’
WHO Director General Margaret Chan will meet West African presidents in the Guinean capital Conakry.
“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” she said in a statement released on the WHO website on Thursday.
“The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”
Key elements of the WHO’s new plan are:
- Stopping transmission in the affected countries through “scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures”
- Preventing the spread of Ebola to “the neighbouring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures”
The WHO says that the scale of the ongoing outbreak is “unprecedented”, with about 1,323 confirmed and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March 2014.
A Samaritan’s Purse medical worker demonstrates personal protective equipment to educate team members on the Ebola virus in Liberia
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered all schools to be closed and put non-essential government workers on leave as part of a series of emergency measures to curtail the Ebola crisis
Office workers in Liberia have been advised to wear gloves as a protective measure to avoid the deadly Ebola virus
It says that improving prevention, detecting and reporting suspected cases, referring people infected with the disease for medical care, as well as psychosocial support, are of paramount importance in battling the illness.
The WHO is also deploying two survivors of the outbreak in Guinea as informal Ebola ambassadors, working with community groups to show that the disease can be prevented if people take recommended precautions.
Ebola since 1976
The US health authorities have warned against travelling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as they strive to tackle the Ebola outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends against non-essential travel [to these countries],” director Tom Frieden said.
The WHO says that more emphasis need to be put on strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures
The US sending is sending 50 extra specialists to affected areas.
An American doctor with Ebola in Liberia has taken a “slight turn for the worse”, the Samaritan’s Purse aid agency said on Thursday.
Kent Brantly and another American worker, Nancy Writebol, “are in stable but grave condition”, the agency said in a statement.
The statement said that Dr Brantly had been offered experimental serum – using blood form a child whose life he saved – but he had insisted that Ms Writebol should receive it instead.
In other developments:
- President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia – one of the worst hit countries – told the BBC the Ebola outbreak was catastrophic, and more help was needed to contain its spread
- Seychelles have cancelled Saturday’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone because of fears over the Ebola virus
- Nigeria has ordered the temperature screening of passengers arriving from places at risk from Ebola while simultaneously suspending pan-African airline Asky for bringing the first Ebola case to Lagos
In London, the ActionAid charity said that the battle against Ebola was being hampered because of the spiralling price of hand sanitisers.
A spokesman said that the cost of some hygiene products had gone up sevenfold, making them too expensive for many people in the region.
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma announced earlier that the epicentres of the outbreak in the east would be quarantined and he asked the security forces to enforce the measures. A state of emergency has been declared.
Ebola virus disease (EVD)
- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
- Fatality rate can reach 90%
- Incubation period is two to 21 days
- There is no vaccine or cure
- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
- Fruit bats are considered to be virus’ natural host
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