One Case in the United Kingdom
A public health nurse who volunteered for Ebola response efforts in Sierra Leone fell ill with Ebola in late December after returning home to Scotland, marking the first case of the virus in the United Kingdom. She was screened repeatedly during her return journey, and she had a normal temperature each time while traveling. She is being treated in London and remains in critical condition (BBC).
Sierra Leone is one of the worst Ebola-affected countries. Officials felt the number of new infections reported last week signaled a “leveling-off” of new transmission, but there were still 248 new cases in the country last week, including 93 in the capital, Freetown (VOA News). Sierra Leone has also increased screening measures at the Freetown National Airport after reports of two airport employees contracting the virus (VOA News). Extended measures include a “lockdown” of the country’s northern region and quarantines in Freetown with door-to-door campaigns to educate community members about the virus, identify infected citizens and refer them to clinics (CBC News).
Liberia lifted the curfew in the capital, Monrovia, for one night on New Year’s Eve to allow for what was a muted celebration (The Independent). Also, conditions have improved sufficiently for the country to begin reopening schools. The school year was scheduled to begin last September before being postponed due to Ebola. The Education Ministry is assessing the situation in approximately 500 schools, and the country plans to reopen them on February 2nd (The Independent).
Cases, Deaths and Locations
As of January 7 the totals, including cases in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, the United States and now the United Kingdom stand at 20,747 cases with 8,235 deaths (CDC). Since Africare’s last update, the total number of deaths has surpassed 8,000. Health workers account for more than 800 Ebola cases, and nearly 500 have died (NBC News).
Ebola’s Knock-On Effects
Anthony Banbury, former chief of the United Nations Mission for Emergency Ebola Response, believes the West African Ebola outbreak could end in 2015 (BBC), but the work will not be done once transmission ends. Because the virus has halted local economic activity, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will likely enter recessions this year, and the number of people in the region affected by hunger could double to one million due to reduced food production (Wall Street Journal). Also, not only have more than one thousand children died from the virus, estimates of how many children have been left orphaned exceed 10,000 (NY Times).
Ebola drugs are being tested but remain in trial phases, and if they are proven effective it will take more than a year to manufacture a sufficiently large quantity (Al Jazeera). If West Africa is to overcome the outbreak in 2015 and rebuild successfully we must continue to invest in community education efforts and in strengthening local health systems. Help West Africans win their fight against Ebola by giving now.