Ten facts about Ebola
- Ebola is not airborne; it is not spread through respiratory transmission. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals. The incubation period of Ebola virus disease (EVD) varies from 2 to 21 days. There is no risk of transmission during the incubation period and only low risk of transmission in the early phase of symptomatic patients (source: WHO, UNMEER) – also watch President Obama’s message to West Africans).
- The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for the Ebola disease has decreased from a peak of 90% in March to 53% overall presently. CFR ranges from 42% in Sierra Leone to 64% in Guinea. Rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks. The earlier patients are getting treated; the better is their chance of survival. (source: UNOCHA)
- The origin of the Ebola outbreak makes it fundamentally a cross-border concern. The current outbreak is concentrated in the cross-border areas of three Mano River Union countries. Nevertheless, the calls for help and the responses primarily take a country-by-country approach. Ebola does not stop at the border; the response must therefore take into account the regional dimension.
- The Ebola-outbreak hit the West African region at its weakest point with Liberia and Sierra Leone having the most basic health infrastructures on the African continent. The two countries have just 0.2 and 0.1 doctors per 10 000 people respectively (compared to the average 2.6 in West Africa (source: MSF). There is a critical shortage of beds available in Ebola treatment centers in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone: there are presently 574 beds and an additional 980 are required - 760 in Monrovia, Liberia alone (source: UNOCHA). Due to the lack of basic response capacities, a local epidemic which could have been quite easily confined to a restricted area - has now evolved into a global health emergency.
- Ebola-related flight bans and border closures do not work and have a very damaging impact on humanitarian access to Ebola-affected countries. Despite AU and WHO recommendations, seven countries have closed their national borders to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and/or Senegal. WHO recommends that, with adequate screening procedures in place at the airports, air links should be resumed and upheld. (> Why don’t we just ban flights from Africa?)
- Ebola has a very negative impact on the region’s fragile food security situation.Strongly reduced farming activities as well as disruption of trade following travel restrictions and market closures, cause food shortages and high food prices in Ebola-affected countries and beyond. The SWAC Secretariat, together with CILSS, ECOWAS and UEMOA , is preparing a study to assess the impact of Ebola on the region’s food security situation. FAO launched on 8 October a new programme to “urgently assist 90 000 vulnerable households in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone whose food supplies and livelihoods are threatened by the disruptive effect the Ebola epidemic is having on rural economies, agricultural activities and markets.
- West Africa was quick to address the outbreak at the regional level. The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) was the first to hold an experts committee meeting on Ebola and its impact for the region. Ebola was on the top of the agenda of all ECOWAS Heads of State summits, health ministerial and defence chiefs meetings. ECOWAS leaders decided on 10 July to set up a Regional Solidarity Fund to raise money for a regional Ebola response. The government of Ghana has accepted to become the logistic hub for the dissemination of medical equipment in the sub-region. ECOWAS Health Ministers are currently finalising an Ebola Regional Operation Plan, calling for the implementation of humanitarian, economic and health corridors, adequate financial incentives for health workers and harmonised sensitisation and information messages. The UEMOA Commission has granted on 25 September for each of its member countries a subsidy of 60 million CFA francs (EUR 0.9 million) to boost preventive measures. Nigeria is sending 591 health workers to Liberia; it is the largest foreign medical team.
- Senegal and Nigeria successfully managed to contain Ebola by applying strict measures to isolate Ebola patients and track down further possible cases. In Senegal, one case was confirmed and there have been no further deaths or suspected cases. 67 close contacts of the initial case have been identified and monitored twice daily (source: WHO).Nigeria recorded 19 cases with 7 seven fatal cases. On 20 October, the WHO officially declared the end of the Ebola epidemic in Nigeria.
- International media attention is mostly focused on Ebola as a security threat to Western nations, while more than 4 500 West Africans have died. Specialised Disease Control Centres highlight that the risk to the general public from Ebola remains very low; Western countries have generally good diagnostic and isolation facilities. Media plays a huge role in how people perceive a threat and can prevent mass panic. Information campaigns in West African countries also play a critical role in preventing new infections.
- Ebola is not “just” an African problem. On 8 August 2014, the WHO declared the current outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease a “public health emergency of international concern”. Ebola illustrates the world’s inter-connectedness: “a threat somewhere is a threat anywhere”; Ebola evolved from a local cross-border epidemic into a regional and now global health emergency; the virus spread quickly from a rural cross-border area to the most populated cities of Nigeria and to the other end of the world, to Texas. “The world is ill-prepared to respond to any severe, sustained and threatening public health emergency.” This conclusion from the Review Committee convened, under the provisions of the International Health Regulations, to assess the response to the 2009 influenza pandemic, is unfortunately still true in 2014 for Ebola.