The United States of America is to end its Ebola Virus Disease relief mission to West Africa on April 30
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
AS the cases of outbreak of Ebola declines in Liberia, the United States of America will be ending its five-month Ebola Virus Disease relief mission in West Africa on April 30. Only 100 of the 2,800 troops sent to Liberia will remain there after the deadline. The military contingent in Liberia was reduced because US government was “expanding our civilian response.” The president’s decision effectively signals the end of the five-month military mission to help contain the spread of the deadly virus in West Africa. Obama, at the White House last week, said the announcement represented the transition into the next phase of the fight.
The president said around 10,000 civilian responders would stay in West Africa to fight the virus. “Every case is an ember that, if not contained, can light a new fire. So we’re shifting our focus from fighting the epidemic to now extinguishing it,” he said.
Around 1,500 US soldiers have already returned from Liberia with each of them being made to undergo a 21-day quarantine period to minimise the risk of contagion. The U.S. efforts resulted in the construction of 10 Ebola treatment units. Those units will be handed over to aid groups, international organisations or government contractors.
“At the height of the outbreak, Liberia was experiencing 119 confirmed Ebola cases per week. This week there were only three. But Guinea reported a sharp increase with 65 new confirmed cases compared with 39 the week before. Sierra Leone reported 76 new confirmed cases. What we’re seeing in Guinea and in Sierra Leone is that the new cases are not cases that are showing up on known contacts lists. The transmission is coming from somewhere else and we don’t know where that somewhere else is.”
David Nabarro, United Nations’ Ebola chief, said the battle against Ebola is far from over. More than 10,000 civilians still fighting the disease in West Africa, who are supported by the United States, are essential to containing it by helping to trace Ebola victims’ contacts, re-establish health services, change behaviour in communities and study the disease. “This is what’s needed now as we move from the current situation toward zero transmission, which is our ultimate goal, without that, the sustained high level of backing right through to the very end of this outbreak, we could end up in the embarrassing situation of seeing rebound, which means that we see suddenly cases start to rise again because we’ve not managed to maintain the hard effort.”
The World Health Organisation, WHO, said the most widespread epidemic of Ebola virus disease in history is currently ongoing in several West African countries. It has caused significant mortality, with reported case fatality rates of up to 71 percent and specifically 57 to 59 percent among hospitalised patients. It stated that Sierra Leone has registered 76 of the 144 new cases, Guinea, 65 and Liberia, 3. WHO and respective governments have reported a total of 23,034 suspected cases and 9,268 deaths, though the WHO believes that this substantially understates the magnitude of the outbreak. It stated that this is the first Ebola outbreak to reach epidemic proportions; past outbreaks were brought under control within a few weeks.
It pointed out extreme poverty; a dysfunctional healthcare system, a mistrust of government officials after years of armed conflict, and the delay in responding to the outbreak for several months have all contributed to the failure to control the epidemic. Other factors include local burial customs that include washing of the body after death, the spread to densely populated cities, and international indifference.
In August 2014, the WHO reported that 10 percent of the dead have been healthcare workers. In September 2014, it estimated that the countries’ capacity for treating Ebola patients was insufficient by the equivalent of 2,122 beds. In December, they reported that at a national level there were now a sufficient number of beds to treat and isolate all reported Ebola cases, although the uneven distribution of cases resulted in serious shortfalls in some areas. On January 28, the WHO reported that for the first time since the week ending 29 June 2014, there have been fewer than 100 new confirmed cases reported in a week in the three most-affected countries. The response to the epidemic has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.
Ebola virus disease was first described in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa; this is the 26th outbreak and the first to occur in West Africa. It began in Guinea in December 2013 and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A small outbreak of 20 cases occurred in Nigeria and one case occurred in Senegal, both now declared disease-free. Several cases were reported in Mali, but this outbreak has also been declared over, and an isolated case has been reported in the United Kingdom. Imported cases in the United States and Spain have led to secondary infections of medical workers but have not spread further.