Friday, August 01, 2014

Ebola outbreak in Western Africa

The extensive spread of the Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone has resulted in the worst episode of the disease since the its first appearance in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ebola spreads through physical contact with infected people or animals and over 1200 cases have been reported by July 28, 2014 in this "unprecedented epidemic" - with some 672 people dead (WHO Ebola outbreak 2014 map at top).

The fatality rate of the disease approaches 90% and with some good news, Canadian researchers have discovered a promising new treatment for the ebola virus. "Researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) have developed a new and easy-to-manufacture treatment for Ebola infection, one of the world’s deadliest diseases. The findings were published today in the Science Translational Medicine journal. The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, today congratulated the researchers on their important achievement. This new treatment can be effective when administered up to 48 hours after infection." At issue with the treatment is the delay between infection and display of symptoms.

The American Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that Ebola poses little risk to the the United States population and notes that the average incubation period is 8-10 days and recommends that infected people go on a fever watch for 21 days. Ebola cannot be spread unless the infected person shows symptoms of the disease which includes "fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite and in some cases bleeding".

From the CDC briefing on Ebola, Stepahn Monroe states "Okay, thank you all for your participation today. I just want to close by saying if we ever needed a reminder that we're all living in a connected world, this horrific Ebola outbreak in West Africa is it. Fundamentally to stop Ebola, we need to work together to do three things. These things are 100 percent in line with the global health security agenda. First we need to build systems to find cases quickly, before they spread. And when healthcare can make a difference between life and death. This means stronger health systems throughout the region, involving traditional healers, supporting primary care and supported by accurate laboratory testing. Second, we need to respond effectively by isolating cases, tracking contacts meticulously and managing the response through Emergency Operation Centers which every country should have. Third, we need to prevent future cases through meticulous infection control, safe burial practices, prompt diagnosis and isolation of new cases and better understanding of how this dreadful disease first crosses over from animals to humans so we can prevent this from happening."

In addition to the CDC forces dispatched to the troubled area, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) have also mobilized healthcare professions to site. "Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is stepping up its response in the most affected areas. While the number of cases in Guinea has declined significantly, in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia more and more people are being infected with the virus. With resources already stretched, health authorities and international organizations are struggling to bring the outbreak under control."

The Canadian Government released a statement today from Ministers Rona Ambrose and Lynne Yelich on the Ebola Outbreak in Western Africa:

August 1, 2014 - The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today issued the following statement regarding the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone: “Our thoughts are with those affected by this tragic outbreak in western Africa.

“There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada, and according to the Public Health Agency of Canada the risk to Canadians remains very low. The Ebola virus itself does not spread easily from person to person. It is not like the flu. It is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not through casual contact."

“All points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored, and travellers showing symptoms would be referred to quarantine officers, who have the authority to implement public health measures under the Quarantine Act to protect Canadians.

“The Government of Canada recommends that Canadians avoid all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This recommendation is designed to protect Canadian travellers and allow health officials in the affected countries to focus their resources on responding to this tragic outbreak.

“For the latest advice and more information from the Government of Canada, Canadians should consult the Government of Canada’s Travel Health Notice on the Ebola Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The government is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with our missions responsible for the affected regions.

“Canada and its international partners are working around the clock to provide support to the affected regions. The Government of Canada has committed $1.41 million to date, and is providing Public Health Agency of Canada experts and a mobile lab in Sierra Leone which ensures rapid and vital diagnostics to assist in the response on the ground. Canada remains the second-largest donor country towards the response efforts.

“Canadians requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the nearest Government of Canada office or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre, toll-free at +1 613-996-8885 (collect call) or via email at”

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