EbolaEbola now threatening West Africa’s major cities
The Ebola virus has begun to spread in Guinea in March, then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and then to Nigeria and Congo. It is now threatening to overwhelm West Africa’s largest cities. The virus is now infecting not only remote rural provinces, but also large cities such as Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia — places where millions of people live in close quarters, making the situation exponentially more dangerous.
The Ebola virus has begun to spread inGuinea in March, then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and then to Nigeria and Congo. It is now threatening to overwhelm West Africa’s largest cities.
TheIndependent reports that the virus is now infecting not only remote rural provinces, but also “teeming” cities such as Freetown, Sierra Leone and Monrovia, Liberia — places where millions of people live in close quarters, making the situation exponentially more dangerous.
Freetown has watched the number of infected residents rise from onet in mid-July to thirty only six weeks later. The number has now risen to forty..
“We have never had this kind of experience with Ebola before,” said David Nabarro, the coordinator for the UN’s new Ebola effort. “When it gets into the cities, then it takes on another dimension.”
In Freetown, a state of emergency has been declared as the number of infections has risen gradually since May. As a preventative measure, the government of Sierra Leone has passed laws limiting close contact, altered the transportation rules and guidelines, urged citizens to maintain their cleanliness, limited the times that businesses are open, and even outlawed large public gatherings.
“It looked like panic,” said Killian Doherty, an Irish architect who lives in Freetown. “It’s the kind of thing that makes you lose your bearings.”
While many who can afford to live Freetown have fled to the outlying areas of the country or to other places to wait out the infection, the majority of Freetown citizens remain in the city with little preparation or education — mainly just fear.
“Everyone is scared. Even I am scared,” said Michael Karoma, a gynecologist at Prince Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown. “Everyone is afraid of Ebola. This used to be in the villages. Now it is in the cities. What is happening in the world?”
The fright has led to many empty facilities and businesses. Karoma reports that few venture to the hospital out of fear, and most hotels and airports are operating at a fraction of their normal occupancy.
At Connaught Hospital, the main health-care center in the city, suspected Ebola victims are screened and await their test results in carefully sealed wards. If found to be infected, the patients are shipped to either a government hospital or a Doctors Without Borders facility outside of the city.
“Fear of Ebola is just permeating everything right now,” said Dan Kelly, a University of California at San Francisco disease specialist who has come to Freetown to teach proper sanitation and use of protective gear. At the hospital to which he has been assigned, Kelly said he expected a steep rise in patients.
“The only question is whether patients will be too scared to come,” he told theTelegraph. The answer may arrive sooner than anyone had anticipated.