CONAKRY, Guinea, April 18, 2014 – As the Ebola outbreak continues to evolve in Guinea and Liberia, WHO continues to expand its activities by sending additional expertise to assist in all areas of the response.
Currently more than 65public health experts are working with WHO and its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) partners are working with WHO on the ground supporting Ministries of Health and other partners in the two countries to provide clinical management of patients, contact tracing, disease surveillance, laboratory work, logistics, as well as communications and sharing of information to help people living in communities protect themselves from the disease.
To date, more than 220 patients have become ill in the region about 135have died. More than 100 are laboratory confirmed to be Ebola. Although it is not the largest outbreak ever, given its spread across two countries, the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia is one of the most challenging WHO and its partners have ever faced. For example, tracing people the ill have come in contact with requires following more than 640 people in 6 areas in Guinea and 4 in Liberia, and sometimes across the borders of the two countries.
In addition to caring for the current patients, new infections must be prevented in order to contain the outbreak. Raising awareness of the risk factors for infection and the protective measures that should be taken is the only way to stop transmission and subsequent deaths. Close unprotected physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided, and those who have died from the disease should be promptly and safely buried.
“One of priority areas of work is to train health care workers in affected countries on how they can protect themselves as they provide care for the sick” says Pierre Formenty, one of WHO’s technical officers specialized in Ebola. “So far in Guinea, 24 health workers have been affected including 13 deaths. Because Ebola outbreaks have not occurred in this area before, many health workers are not practiced in caring for these patients. Protecting their health is crucial to succeeding in the control of this Ebola outbreak.”
In Conakry, public health experts from WHO, GOARN and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are supporting national medical and nursing staff at the Donka Hospital to strengthen patient triage and care, case management and infection prevention and control.
Training on the safe handling of patients with Ebola and the deceased is also organized for staff working at the morgue, and for drivers and staff transporting patients. A training of trainers activity for the directors of all 20 health Centres in Conakry is planned this week as well as for health workers from non-affected regions of Guinea (Lola, Yomou, Beyla et Nzérékoré).
Similar work is underway in Liberia, where the WHO and the GOARN team has conducted visits to two hospitals in Montserrado County, and trainings in patient triage and care and infection prevention and control.
Ebola can have a case fatality rate of up to 90%, and is a severe acute viral illness. No vaccine is available, nor is there any specific treatment. It is characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat. This can be followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes, or intravenous fluids.
SOURCE: World Health Organization (WHO)