Guinea faces an Ebola epidemic on an unprecedented scale as it battles to contain confirmed cases now scattered across several locations that are far apart, the medical charity Médecins sans Frontières said.
The warning from an organisation used to tackling Ebola in central Africa came after Guinea's president appealed for calm as the number of deaths linked to an outbreak on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone passed 80.
The outbreak of one of the world's most lethal infectious diseases has alarmed a number of governments with weak health systems, prompting Senegal to close its border with Guinea and other neighbours to restrict travel and cross-border exchanges.
Figures released overnight by Guinea's health ministry showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected Ebola since January, up from 70. Of these, there were 22 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola, the ministry said.
"We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country," said Mariano Lugli, the co-ordinator of Médecins sans Frontières' project in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.
The organisation said on Monday it had been involved in dealing with nearly all other recent Ebola outbreaks, mostly in remote parts of central African nations, but Guinea is fighting to contain the disease in numerous locations, some of which are hundreds of miles apart.
"This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic," Lugli added.
The outbreak of Ebola – a virus which has a fatality rate of up to 90% – has centred on Guinea's south-east. But it took authorities six weeks to identify the disease, allowing it to spread over borders and to more populated areas.
Cases were confirmed in Conakry last week, bringing the disease – previously limited to remote, lightly populated areas – to a sprawling Atlantic Ocean port of two million people.
Guinea's president, Alpha Condé, appealed for calm late on Sunday. "My government and I are very worried about this epidemic," he said, ordering Guineans to take strict precautions to avoid the further spread of the disease.
Anybody tracking this?
One of the world’s most terrifying viruses is multiplying. Thus far at least 70 people have died from the Ebola virus in Guinea in recent weeks and though officials have taken steps to shut down the country’s border it may already be too late. The deadly strain of hemorrhagic fever has reportedly already spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The virus is normally acquired as a result of the butchering of or consumption of meat from bats or monkeys, which has prompted Guinea’s government to issue a ban on, among other things, the sale and preparation of bat soup. But because the virus can be spread from human-to-human via feces, blood, saliva, or sweat, it’s possible that the virus is now spreading through the general population.
Frighteningly, while the virus has historically be contained in rural areas of Africa, the latest outbreak has spread to Conakry, Guinea’s capital city of two million people.
As noted by Underground Medic, the strain of virus detected in those that have already died has been confirmed as the Zaire strain of Ebola, which has a fatality rate of 90%.
The disease has traveled 526 miles from Nzerekore to Conakry since Wednesday. It is a highly infectious disease and there are fears that community spread has already occurred.
With an incubation time between 4 and 21 days, and an average mean of 16 days, the amount of people an infected person has come into is considerable. Public transport is often overloaded and crowded living conditions give the disease ample opportunity to spread.
Reports indicate that the virus was largely isolated to Guinea’s low-population regions but one individual who got sick was transported to the country’s capital by his relatives. That person subsequently died, but he or those transporting him may have affected others.
Because of an incubation period that can last nearly three weeks, it may be difficult to identify those who have contracted the virus, which is one reason that officials in Africa, Europe and the United States are watching closely:
What governments and clinicians fear is a person incubating Ebola travelling through an international airport, infecting people from around the globe, before boarding their flight. With the average incubation taking 16 days tracing contacts of an infected individual would be a logistical nightmare. Many believe it would be an impossible task as airports only hold names of those booked on flights, not friends and relatives who are seeing them, and thousands of others off on their journeys.
After three decades in the health care environment I am not easily scared by bacteria and viruses. Out of all the diseases that are capable of doing us harm, Ebola scares me the most, in fact it terrifies me.
Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University is equally concerned:
What normally happens is that international groups like Médecins Sans Frontières come in and cordon off the area, use a variety of diagnostic tests to exclude the worried well from truly sick, and try to interfere with some of these funeral practices. Then the episode dies out.
But [this outbreak] seems to have moved. It’s not as well contained as we would have hoped. I anticipate we will lose many people, but it will be a self-limited outbreak. We’ve lost less than 70 people. But it’s terrible.
The Ebola virus seems to remain isolated in Africa for the time being, but if one infected individual boards an international flight to Europe, South America, Asia or the USA then all bets are off. With cramped quarters on an airplane over a period of several hours you could potentially end up with scores of cases, and most of those infected would have no idea. From there we could have a spread of deadly contagion unlike any we’ve seen in modern times.
3 hours ago - The Ebola outbreak that has killed 78 people in Guinea is "unprecedented", a medical charity has said. An official with Medecins Sans
The strain suspected in the Guinea outbreak is called Zaire ebolavirus, which is the most lethal strain.
Historically, total deaths from EBOLA is only 1600+/- ... less than acute heart related deaths in one day? Some thousands being killed per day was normal in Congo.
The EBOLA numbers are so small the story here is more about the diagnosis of why some people are sick (there must be lack of proper food in the first place?)
Victims of low-fat diet = larger that WW II
Right. However, this outbreak is unprecedented. Worth a serious inquiry for sure. The virus has almost always been contained to fairly remote rural areas, or they have been isolated incidences in laboratories.
This is a very dangerous outbreak. The poor health systems in the these West African countries are not prepared or equipped to handle an outbreak of this nature. It's already spread to the ONLY major sea port in Guinea—Conakry: a densely populated area of over 2 million people—and it's also spread to two other African countries. This strain of Ebola the Zaire strain, is the most deadly and is highly contagious. The fact that the virus has traveled 526 miles from Nzerekore to Conakry since Wednesday is alarming.
When the MSM is all over a story like the Swine Flu outbreak, that usually means the PTB control it. This is not the case with this outbreak. MSM is pretty quiet so far. This tells me that either they are not in control, or they are keeping it hush-hush for a reason. Either way, can't be good...
It's also worth noting that this strain of Ebola has an incubation period between 4-21 days. This means there are likely many more that are infected and have yet to be identified. If just one person hops on an international flight to any major city in Europe, Asia, or anywhere in the Americas, stuffs about to hit the fan and it's contagious as hell.
The poor health systems in the these West African countries
I suspect these countries to be heavy vaccinated. The worst places in African are countries like South Africa - and the best places somewhere in Sahara far from hospitals?
Statistics are welcomed, because I would have sent a letter to UN: Don't send doctors, we have plenty of shamans