Via CIDRAP, Lisa Schnirring writes: WHO sees start of shortages due to Ebola-related restrictions. Excerpt:
The World Health Organization (WHO) today aired concern about companies suspending services to countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, with some starting to feel shortages of food and other supplies, and said the pace of new illnesses and deaths continues to surge, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
High-level communications between the WHO and affected countries, companies, and groups that conduct business in and with Africa are still underway, and some companies have suspended services to the affected countries, according to a WHO statement today. Last week the agency aired concerns about flight bans and said the actions could hamper the flow of needed supplies to the outbreak region.
Shortages could hamper response, relief efforts
Delivery suspensions by shipping companies are starting to cause shortages of food, fuel, and basic supplies in affected countries, the WHO said, adding that it is already working with the United Nations World Food Programme to shore up food and other supplies for the region. It called on companies to make their decisions based on sound science about Ebola virus transmission.
Some airlines, such as British Airways and Emirates Airlines, have suspended service to outbreak areas. In a related development, some Air France flights crews are refusing to board planes because of outbreak fears, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. A spokesman for the airline told AFP that flights scheduled for the region have not been left shorthanded.
Besides one sick airline traveler whose illness was detected in Nigeria, no travel-linked Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases have been detected anywhere in the world. The WHO and its emergency committee have said the risk for travel-related spread is very low and have urged countries not to issue trade or travel bans.
Illnesses and deaths rise in three countries
In outbreak developments, the WHO said today that between Aug 17 and 18, 221 new EVD cases and 106 deaths were reported from the West African outbreak countries, lifting the overall total to 2,473 illnesses with 1,350 deaths.
Liberia, which carries the biggest burden of cases, reported 126 more EVD cases and 95 deaths, boosting its total to 972 infections, 576 of them fatal. Sierra Leone health officials reported 59 more illnesses and 9 more deaths, bringing its total to 907 EVD cases, 374 of them fatal.
Civil unrest in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, has been hampering disease control efforts and fueling fears of further spread, and today police used tear gas and live ammunition to scatter a crowd attempting to break out of a quarantined neighborhood, according to a Reuters report.
The conflict occurred in the city's West Point slum area, where on Aug 16 a crowd looted an Ebola holding area, scattering patients and clinic supplies, including soiled items, into the community. The country's health ministry said yesterday that all of the patients, who were being evaluated for possible exposure to the virus, had been found and were being monitored at one of the city's hospitals.
In Guinea, which has recently seen some hopeful signs in the battle to curb the virus, authorities reported 36 more illnesses and 2 more deaths, raising its total to 579 cases and 396 deaths. Nigeria, where cases were linked to a sick traveler, reported no new cases or deaths, keeping its tally at 15 cases and 4 deaths.