Via Vox.com, Julia Belluz has another good report: Two new cases of Ebola reported in Democratic Republic of Congo. Excerpt:
To date, there have been suspected Ebola cases in Europe, Asia, and North America but none have tested positive. Public health officials are relatively unconcerned about Ebola becoming a big problem in the developed world. That's because outbreaks persist in countries with poor sanitation and a shortage of resources to contain them, not in resource-rich places like the US.
For this reason, continued spread in Africa is really what public health officials are worried about. "Our first concern is that this is going to go into adjacent areas through people traveling in the region," said Daniel Bausch, associate professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, who is working with the WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières on the outbreak.
"In the short term, the main vector is the traveler: local people traveling from one village to the next. On a more regional scale, plane travelers." Travel from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia within the African continent is much more prevalent than travel elsewhere.
All countries in West Africa are already on alert. National authorities in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, and Côte d'Ivoire are working with the WHO on prevention efforts and monitoring potential cases.
To do this, contact tracing is essential, said Bausch. "With Ebola outbreaks, most of the time there's one or very few introductions of the virus from the wild into humans, and all the transmission after that is human-to-human transmission. So people who are traveling locally as well as on planes and other modes of transport, that's the way this would get around."
The worst-case scenario
Even if the outbreak didn't move across any other country border, intensification within the already affected areas is the most immediate health threat. As of Aug. 22, there have been 1,082 cases and 624 deaths reported. This is the largest-ever Ebola outbreak, and the WHO said that it is preparing for the outbreak to last for months.
"The worst-case scenario is that the disease will continue to bubble on, like a persistent bushfire, never quite doused out," said Derek Gatherer, a Lancaster University bioinformatician who has studied the evolution of this Ebola outbreak.
"It may start to approach endemic status in some of the worst affected regions. This would have very debilitating effects on the economies of the affected countries and West Africa in general."
This dire situation could come about because of a "persistent failure of current efforts," he added. "Previous successful eradications of Ebola outbreaks have been via swamping the areas with medical staff and essentially cutting the transmission chains. Doing that here is going to be very difficult and expensive. We have little option other than to pump in resources and engage with the problem using the tried-and-tested strategy—but on a scale previously unused."