Sierra Leone continues to be the country under the most duress. With more than 9,400 Ebola cases, it has the most widespread transmission, and while the country’s total Ebola deaths is still fewer than Liberia’s, the rate of Ebola fatalities in Sierra Leone tragically continues to outpace other countries (CDC). Reports suggest that unsafe burial practices are the main cause of new infections, but influential individuals such as pop stars and government officials are increasingly communicating about Ebola to involve local communities in response efforts (CTV News). Also the country is improving their response capabilities with more treatment units and ambulances, all of which will hopefully turn the tide against the virus soon (VOA News).
A recent report announced “dozens” of new infections in Liberia along the border with Sierra Leone (News24), but the number of new cases reported each week in Liberia has shown a steady and significant decline since mid-October.
On Saturday, December 20 the country successfully held senatorial elections which had been postponed several times due to concerns about Ebola transmission and legal challenges. Approximately 25% of Liberia’s registered voters turned out to vote (Liberia National Elections Commission). Election monitors reported that although Ebola precautions such as infrared thermometers were used in Monrovia, the safety measures in rural areas were inadequate. However, several interviewed voters attributed low voter turn-out not to Ebola, but rather to a general skepticism toward the political candidates (NY Times).
Cases, Deaths and Locations
As of December 30 the totals, including cases in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States, stand at 20,115 cases with 7,857 deaths (CDC). Since Africare’s last update, these totals have surpassed the thresholds of 20,000 cases and 7,000 deaths. While this can never be interpreted as good news, it is noteworthy that in September the CDC warned that without improved interventions, the total number of cases could reach as high as 1.4 million in Sierra Leone and Liberia alone by January 2015 (CDC).