The Ebola outbreak is now affecting four countries, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria (ABC NEWS). As of August 4, the death toll is 932 with 1,711 confirmed cases, both increases from the 672 deaths and 1,201 cases at the time of Africare’s last weekly update (WHO). Experts at the World Health Organization are now discussing whether or not to declare a global health emergency (BBC), and the likelihood that infections and deaths will continue to escalate is high.
Many locals are skeptical about the nature of Ebola and doubt the public health messages coming from their governments. This means that the actual numbers of deaths and infections may be higher than WHO’s official statistics because people may not report Ebola cases to the authorities (CBS NEWS). Also, during burials in the region family members wash the bodies of their dead loved ones, exposing the previously healthy participants to the virus. These burials are a significant factor perpetuating Ebola’s spread, but people are reluctant to abandon their traditional practice.
Global fears are growing with reports of international infections. Two Americans infected while working in West Africa are now being treated in Atlanta, Georgia, and a man in Saudi Arabia reportedly died with Ebola-like symptoms after traveling home from Sierra Leone (BBC). However, experts at the CDC are working to assure U.S. citizens that Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with contaminated bodily fluids and therefore does not pose a significant risk in the United States (ValueWalk).
Right now, health care workers treating Ebola sufferers are in danger of infection, and local beliefs are not conducive to containing the virus. Africare is shipping more than $525,000 in Personal Protective Equipment to help health care workers treat patients safely, and we are also developing Social and Behavior Change Communication programming to educate local populations on the disease and how they can keep themselves and their neighbors healthy.