The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is continuing unabated:
The death toll from the outbreak of Ebola virus in west Africa has climbed to 826, nearly double the number of fatalities of the previous worst-ever epidemic, according to figures released by the World Health Organisation.
The update suggests the outbreak is spinning out of control, with more than 50 deaths reported in three days from 28-30 July, as the spread of the virus outpaces efforts to contain it in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The surge in the number of new cases . . . calls for concentrated efforts by all to address the identified problems such as health facility transmission and effective contact tracing,” the WHO said.
The rapid increase in the death toll comes after the three west African nations announced over the weekend extra measures to combat the outbreak, including calling in the army to enforce quarantines in several villages.
In a statement the trio said the new measures would focus on the “cross-border regions that have more than 70 per cent [of the cases] of the epidemic”. They added that the “border areas will be isolated by policy and the military”.
By my reckoning that means that there have been about four times as many deaths in this outbreak as in any previous one. And the outbreak hasn’t subsided. That strongly suggests to me that something has changed. What?
Additionally, I have read reports that the American healthcare workers who have been brought back to the States for treatment after contracting the disease were using the CDC’s containment protocols including containment suits. Assume that they were. How much confidence should we have that the containment protocols are effective?
Finally, many of the remarks I have read about the spread of the disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have been incredibly patronizing. I’m sure they were well-intentioned. Patronizing people frequently have good intentions. Is it warranted?
I’m not advocating panic. I’m advocating skepticism. It seems to me that we may not know as much as we think we do and that isn’t much.