Ebola virus spreads across African borders
(9 July 2014)
An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has called attention to cross-border movement in West Africa. The outbreak began in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded 844 laboratory-confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola in the region. Guinea reports the highest number of cases at 408, including 307 deaths. The WHO cites unsafe burial practices as one of the key factors influencing the spread of the disease, which is 90 percent fatal with no vaccine or cure.
While Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been at the centre of the outbreak, the disease is now poised to become “cross-border crisis,” according to WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo. As sick people travel to get medical treatment, they have already spread the disease from forested regions to urban areas. Now, the WHO predicts that neighbouring countries will be affected. Dr. Pierra Formenty, WHO medical officer, called on “bordering countries [such as] Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, [and] Guinea Bissau to prepare themselves in case people affected with the disease may be also travelling.”
Health ministers of 11 countries in the region gathered in Ghana last week for an emergency meeting to discuss regional solutions to the Ebola outbreak, including dissemination of accurate information, better heath teams, and using technology such as mobile phones to track the outbreak. They also established a regional control centre in Guinea to respond to the virus. Doctors in Sierra Leone published a call for regional cooperation in The Lancet, urging authorities in affected countries to use mobile phone SMS messages and open-source digitalised maps to track the spread of the disease as it crosses national boundaries.
Ebola-sickened travellers may cross borders, WHO warns, 27 June 2014, Canada Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/ebola-sickened-travellers-may-cross-borders-who-warns-1.2689685
Ebola virus toll passes 500 as expert look to mobile technology to help stop epidemic, 9 July 2014, News.com.au, http://www.news.com.au/world/ebola-virus-toll-passes-500-as-expert-look-to-mobile-technology-to-help-stop-epidemic/story-fndir2ev-1226983016348