Governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other international groups are fighting an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
WHO's Nov. 19 situation report on the outbreak said that 5,420 have died from Ebola as of Nov. 16, with 243 deaths in the past week. The total number of cases across eight countries climbed to 15,145. There were 533 new cases in Sierra Leone in what the WHO called "intense transmission in the country's west and north."
Mali on Nov. 22 confirmed a new Ebola case, along with two suspected cases. No details were provided about the patient, who the government said was "in an isolation center for intensive treatment." Ebola has killed at least five in Mali and health officials are monitoring 310 people to limit the spread of the disease.
An internal draft WHO document, obtained by the AP, says "nearly everyone" involved in its Ebola response failed to anticipate the virus' spread. The organization blamed its own bureaucracy, politically motivated appointments, incompetent staff and a lack of information. The WHO has since replaced its chief in Africa.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO Asst. Director-General for Emergencies, said in mid-October that WHO anticipates 5,000 to 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by December. More than 20 people were dying of Ebola per day in western Sierra Leone, the government said Oct. 21.
Nigeria is free from Ebola, the WHO said Oct. 20. The announcement came 42 days, or twice the incubation period, since the last case tested negative. The country employed GPS for tracing and mapping to identify chains of transmission, linking 19 confirmed cases to a July 20 air traveler from Liberia.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used her emergency powers Oct. 9 to suspend senatorial elections due to be held Oct. 14. The decision was taken to prevent traveling in the country worst hit by the Ebola crisis. Sirleaf had been given the powers under a state of emergency declared in August.
Food deliveries are not reaching everyone in Sierra Leone, forcing thousands to break quarantine in search of sustenance, aid groups said Nov. 4. Some who leave their homes are being monitored and could spread the disease. The government and the UN's World Food Programme are responsible for food deliveries.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Nov. 15 officially declared that its three-month Ebola outbreak was over after 42 days since the last case. DRC's outbreak killed 49 of the 66 people infected. The strain of Ebola in DRC was different than the one continuing to impact nations in West Africa.
An Indian national who was treated for Ebola in Liberia was quarantined when he arrived in New Delhi on Nov. 10, health officials said Nov. 18. Despite testing negative for the disease, trace amounts of Ebola were found in semen samples. Some 45,000 Indian nationals live in West Africa.
Ebola, which has no vaccine, kills between 25% and 90% of people who contract it, depending on the strain. It is transmitted via unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of symptomatic people or corpses. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. Eight outbreaks have occurred since the virus was discovered in 1976.
Copyright 2014 Reuters
At least 3,700 children have lost one or both parents due to Ebola and are now being shunned by their communities, UNICEF said Sept. 30. "Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family, but in some communities, the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties," the group said.
Researchers say that current evidence indicates that "patient zero" in West Africa was a two-year-old whose mother, sister and grandmother also died of symptoms consistent with an Ebola infection, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's currently unclear how the boy may have been infected.