Via Nature News & Comment: World struggles to stop Ebola. Excerpt:
Dan Kelly felt as if he were entering a war zone when he arrived at Connaught Hospital on 19 August. His friend Modupeh Cole, the physician in charge of the Ebola isolation ward at the hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, had died six days earlier. Marta Lado, a doctor from Spain, was caring for the ward’s ten patients.
“She was mopping the floors herself,” says Kelly, an infectious-disease physician and co-founder of the Wellbody Alliance, a non-profit health-care organization in Sierra Leone.
The international aid group Médecins Sans Frontières has called the world’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa “dangerously inadequate”. As Kelly travelled around Freetown, noticing closed clinics and health-care workers without adequate protective training and equipment, he had to agree.
“We’re lacking the kind of passionate humanitarian response that we’ve seen for disasters like the Haiti earthquake or the Haiyan typhoon” in the Philippines, says Kelly, who is raising money through the University of California, San Francisco, to teach infection-control practices to health-care workers fighting the outbreak. More than 240 health-care workers have contracted Ebola in the current episode, including a Senegalese epidemiologist who is the first person deployed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to become infected with the disease. “We’re around rock bottom,” says Kelly.
Weeks after the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak a public-health emergency of international concern and the World Bank pledged to provide up to US$200 million in aid, enough resources to end the crisis have yet to materialize. The WHO reports that the Ebola outbreak has so far claimed 1,427 lives in four West African nations — more than all previous recorded outbreaks combined, and probably an underestimate (see ‘Out of control’). It says that the epidemic will last for another 6–9 months, and the scientists and doctors who are fighting it agree.
“I can comfortably say that we will be in this for the next 4 to 9 months, not including the follow-up that will be required to deal with the post-traumatic effects,” says virologist Joseph Fair, a special adviser to the ministry of health in Sierra Leone.
To end the crisis, developed countries and aid groups need to send more people with expertise in treating infectious diseases, public-health experts say. In Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, only three Ebola treatment facilities were operating as of 22 August; the WHO says that, in the coming weeks, facilities will be needed to treat another 500 patients.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, has sent 60 people to West Africa to help with surveillance, disease tracking and education, but they do not treat patients. Health-care workers and experts are badly needed from other Western governments, says Sophie Delaunay, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières in New York. Many institutions and aid groups are even removing doctors from the region out of concern for the physicians’ safety.