Via MSF.org: Ebola crisis update - 17 July 2015. Excerpt from a very informative report:
The emergency is not over – the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues.
Though Ebola has faded from the news headlines, the epidemic in West Africa continues to claim lives today. Infection rates are down from the peak of the crisis last year and progress has been made in the fight against Ebola.
However, around 30 people still become infected each week in Sierra Leone and Guinea – a number that would be considered a major disaster under normal circumstances – and the outbreak has recently re-emerged in Liberia. Ongoing infections in the capitals Freetown and Conakry, and deaths from Ebola still found too late in the community, remain of high concern.
Going from hundreds of cases to 30 per week took considerable time and massive resources, yet getting from 30 to zero requires the most meticulous, difficult work of all - we cannot lose focus now and must guard against complacency until the entire region is declared Ebola free.
The priorities today are to improve Ebola surveillance, while continuing to raise awareness to get the local communities on board to bring the epidemic to an end.
Community fatigue, fear and reticence remain.Whilst Sierra Leoneans, Guineans and Liberians are understandably exhausted from the more than 16 months of Ebola in the region, fear and reticence in some communities to recognize the disease or to seek care in specialized centres is still is an issue that must be addressed. Ebola cases continue to go undetected for too long, with 25% of positive cases identified after death in their communities in the past three (3) weeks.
Engaging the community must be the cornerstone in the fight against Ebola. Gaining the trust and confidence of the communities to help to allay the rumours and myths surrounding the disease and the response is still needed. Communities across the region are very diverse and a one-size-fits-all approach with one-way messaging instead of a community-centred approach is doomed to fail.
Improved quality of case investigation, contact tracing and monitoring is needed to stop Ebola transmission today. The surveillance systems to locate and track new Ebola cases across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia need to be properly supported in all districts. This includes the so called "silent" districts where cases of Ebola have not been seen for some months. This is important to control the outbreak, and for continuing efforts to reach zero cases, but also to prevent outbreaks of other infectious diseases including measles and cholera.
On infection control and triage in health facilities, non-Ebola healthcare, & survivors:
Already weak public health systems have been seriously damaged by the epidemic, with more than 500 health workers dying of the virus across the chronically understaffed region and fear of infection and lack of infection control closing many health facilities across the region at least temporarily.
Strict protocols for screening and triage of both staff and patients who meet the Ebola case definition must be adhered to without exception, even in the so called “silent districts.” With the rainy season, symptoms of malaria can easily mimic those of Ebola so extra precaution and vigilance is required.
Non-Ebola healthcare: treatment programs for chronic illnesses like HIV, heart disease and diabetes, as well as routine maternal and child health services such as routine childhood vaccinations have been interrupted. These lifesaving health services must be supported, not only financially but also by way of the provision of trained clinical staff.
Survivors and those directly affected by Ebola must be provided with tailored services including mental healthcare as they continue their recovery from the virus that has destroyed many families and their way of life.