Ebola case count rises sharply in West Africa

Friday, 31 October, 2014

The World Health Organization has modified its case count for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. It rose shaprly as more accurate figures of cases were included in the latest situation report. On 24 October total cases were 10,114. The report of 29 October gives the case count as 13,703, an increase of 35%. The additional cases, however, were cases that had occurred throughout the outbreak, but had not been counted. In Liberia particularly acertainment of cases has been a problem. The good news is that the number of deaths remained stable at 4,941. The true case fatlaity rate is much lower than previously calculated, falling from 48.6% to 36.5%. A glimmer of light in a disasterous situation.

In the three countries with widespread and intense transmission (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) transmission is continuing and is particularly intense in the capital cities. Reports from the ground are that these cities are virtual "ghost towns" with cessation of schooling, most commerce and normal activities. Many people are not going to work. In a meeting in London two weeks ago, the words of the President of Sierra Leoone, Dr Ernest Koroma, captured the disaster that is the West African Ebola outbreak:

Our people are dying, children are being orphaned, most of the dead are women and over two-thirds of those infected belong to the most economically active age category of 15 to 50. Children are not going to school; doctors and nurses are dying, and non-Ebola illnesses are adding to the toll of death and suffering due to further strains and weakening of the healthcare delivery system in the country.

In this context the narrow and mean-spirited paraochial decisions of the Australian Federal government are personally embarrassing to me, Rick Speare. Through THS I am currently working with the World Health Organization in Manilla to support the Philippine Department of Health to develop and deliver training courses to prepare their hospital system to detect and manage cases of Ebola virus disease. Rapidly detecting and quickly isolating that first imported case is critical. The whole health system has to be prepared to manage Ebola. We are training doctors, nurses and medical technicians.

The WHO Ebola Situation Roadmap reoprot for 29 October 2014 is avialable at http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/137376/1/roadmapsitrep_29Oct201....

Posted 31 October 2014
Rick Speare