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More than 17,000 Ebola patients

December 2, 2014

The number of Ebola patients has passed 17,000, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Response to the outbreak is unfortunately still very slow, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Ebola Sierra Leone
Image: Reuters

In a report published on Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced that the number of people infected by Ebola - a highly infectious tropical virus that spreads through bodily fluids - has crossed 17,000. Of these, about 6,000 people have died. A majority of these cases are in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

On Monday, WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward told reporters that the number of deaths by Ebola had been much fewer than previously thought. However, according to the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, health personnel in these countries have been left to handle the crisis alone.

In a press release, Doctors Without Borders lamented that the international response to Ebola's spread was "slow and uneven." The organization said on its website: "It is extremely disappointing that states with biological-disaster response capacities have chosen not to utilize them. How is it that the international community has left the response to Ebola - now an international threat - to doctors, nurses and charity workers?"

The press release also mentions the case of Liberia, where there are no transport facilities for laboratory samples. The virus continues to spread in Guinea because campaigns to raise awareness are very weak.

Ebola Conakry
Helpers from the EU are in GuineaImage: European Union/Kenzo Tribouillard

In Sierra Leone, where health personnel are forced to isolate infected people in their homes, another doctor has tested positive for Ebola. Thomas Rogers, the 10th doctor to be infected by the virus in Sierra Leone, was working in the capital, Freetown, and has been moved to a treatment center reserved for health care workers.

The three severely affected countries will receive nearly $1 billion (810 million euros) in aid from the World Bank, half of which would be used to combat the virus. World Bank chief Jim Yong King has also announced a trip to West Africa next week after his organization cut growth predictions for the three nations that have suffered a severe blow from the virus.

Preparing for the epidemic

Officials in the US have identified 35 hospitals nationwide for Ebola. More treatment centers are expected to be added to the list of institutions where infected persons will receive treatment with minimal danger to the staff. Prominent hospitals include Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Mayo clinic in Minnesota.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 80 percent of travelers returning from Ebola-struck countries live within 320 kilometers (200 miles) radius of such a health facility.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement: "As long as Ebola is spreading in West Africa, we must prepare for the possibility of additional cases in the United States."

There have been three cases of Ebola diagnosed in the US, including two nurses who contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian. He succumbed to the illness, but the nurses survived.

mg/mkg (AP, Reuters)

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