Out of the Spotlight, Ebola Still Ravages West African Countries

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Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was officially declared on March 22 in Guinea, it has claimed 6,387 lives in the region. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is currently affecting four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.

Outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal have been declared over. A separate outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has also ended, according to an update by Doctors Without Borders, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Three months after MSF called for states with biological-disaster response capacity to urgently dispatch human and material resources to West Africa, all three of the worst hit countries have received some assistance from the international community.

But foreign governments have focused primarily on financing or building Ebola case management structures, leaving staffing them up to national authorities, local healthcare staff and NGOs.

Across the region, there are still not adequate facilities for isolating and diagnosing patients where they are needed, according to MSF. Other elements that are essential to an Ebola response – such as awareness-raising and community acceptance, safe burials, contact tracing, alert and surveillance, access to health care for non-Ebola patients – are still lacking in parts of West Africa.

The clinical trials for three different treatments led by MSF and three research institutions should start soon at MSF sites in West Africa.

The French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) will lead a trial for antiviral drug favipiravir at MSF’s facility in Guéckédou, Guinea. The inclusion of patients at this site has started this week.

The Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) will lead a trial of convalescent plasma therapy at MSF’s Donka Ebola center in Conakry, Guinea; and the University of Oxford will lead, on behalf of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), a Wellcome Trust-funded trial of the antiviral drug brincidofovir at Elwa3 in Monrovia.

Both the trials for Donka and Monrovia are still under discussion.

The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) is based in Ghana to pursue five strategic priorities: stop the spread of the disease; treat the infected; ensure essential services; preserve stability; and prevent the spread of the disease to countries currently unaffected.

MSF has been responding to the outbreak since March, and currently has more than 3,400 staff working in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. Since the response began, 27 MSF staff members have fallen ill with Ebola, 14 of whom have recovered and 13 have died.

The vast majority of these infections were found to have occurred in the community.

MSF’s West Africa Ebola response started in March, with activities in Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone. MSF currently employs 306 international and around 3,078 locally hired staff in the region.

The organization operates seven Ebola case management centers (CMCs), providing approximately 600 beds in isolation, and two transit centers.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, MSF has admitted more than 7,000 patients, among whom around 4,400 were confirmed as having Ebola. Nearly 1,900 patients have survived.

More than 1,305 tons of supplies have been shipped to the affected countries since March.

For more information go to www.msf.org/article/ebola-crisis-update-18th-december-2014

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