The Ebola virus is continuing to wreak havoc on Africa’s West Coast, and according to the newest statement from the World Health Organization, it will not be over for another two to four months. Since the outbreak began last month, there have already been 157 suspected and confirmed cases in Guinea, with 101 confirmed deaths; and 21 suspected cases in Liberia, with 10 confirmed deaths. With this new announcement from the WHO, we can surely expect to see many more Ebola victims before the outbreak has officially ended.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak was officially recognized on March 23, but it was believed to have been going on for months before its diagnosis. Over the past few weeks, the virus has claimed over a hundred lives, and new reports from the WHO suggest that it may not be stopping any time soon. “We fully expect to be engaged in this outbreak over the next two to three to four months before we are comfortable that we are through it,” Dr. Keija Fukuda, WHO assistant director announced on Reuters. The virus is still spreading to three “hotspots” of Guinea Forestiere, a southeastern region 560 miles from the capital city of Conakry. “In Guinea Forestiere, the outbreak is not over, this is the epicenter. As long as it is not over there, there will be cases exported to the rest of the country,” Stephane Hugonnet, a WHO medical officer, also told Reuters.
Ebola was first documented in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Zaire, according to WHO records. The virus is believed to originate in bats, where it is then transmitted to other species, eventually affecting humans. The outbreak of 1976 saw the most deaths from the virus, infecting 318 individuals and taking the lives of 280. Since then, there have been 24 WHO documented outbreaks in Africa, which have claimed about 1,500 lives to date, not including this current outbreak. According to Fukada, “This is one of the most challenging outbreaks of Ebola we have ever faced.”
The viral outbreak has caused hysteria in many of the infected areas. On April 5, a crowd attacked an Ebola treatment center in Guinea, blaming medical staff for spreading the virus. This caused the closing of the medical center in an effort to protect the staff. Foreign mining companies have shut down operations and pulled foreign staff out of Guinea. In small villages, some of the residents have stopped shaking hands out of fear of the virus. Others are keeping themselves isolated until the outbreak ends. “How can we trust them now?” Dede Diallo, a Guinean resident who has ceased working and is keeping her children home from school, explained to The Washington Post. There is good news, however. The WHO has yet not recommended any travel restriction for Guinea.