Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ebola Issues

The Ebola epidemic in Africa is about to get a lot worse thanks to the assault on a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia on 16 August 2014 where 17 Ebola patients were liberated along with their bedsheets and other Ebola contaminated items.  These patients were hand carried from the hospital and out in the general community for a couple days coming into contact with many others as their "liberators" didn't believe in Ebola.  As most people get around Liberia on mototaxi or crowded minibuses, many may have come into physical contact with the infected patients.  This close contact with others will allow the virus to spread rapidly and people may not know they were exposed.

Ebola is a virus that is spread through contact with fluids of an infected person and has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days.  Ebola kills 90% of people infected with the virus and does not currently have a vaccine.  An experimental drug has been used successfully in some cases but the supply is limited and knowledge of the side effects and associated complications are not fully known.

In the Liberian case the Ebola patients were moved around the densely populated city of Monrovia (estimated population of 750,000 in 2011) and possibly into the countryside as the liberators sought out traditional healers to cure the sick.  So far more than 400 deaths have been attributed to Ebola in Liberia but many may be unreported in the interior away from modern medical treatment centers.

Its possible that the Ebola patients may have also been moved away from the city along traditional trafficking routes towards Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, or Sierra Leone.  The borders throughout the region are extremely porous with people moving freely into Sierra Leone on many routes that avoid official checkpoints.  Given the incubation period of 2 to 21 days its possible that people are already enroute to areas that haven't been warned about Ebola and are currently reporting no issues.

Countries may also be underreporting Ebola incidents after the example of the treatment of Liberia and Sierra Leone by the international community.  Major airlines have cut off service to the affected countries and tourism has come to a stop.  As neighboring countries have sealed their borders trade has also halted and scarce supplies and food are becoming impossible to find.

The next phase of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia will explode around 6 September (21 days after the hospital escape) and may linger longer if the government claims of having recaptured all the infected patients isn't true.  The current Ebola outbreak is the deadliest in history with over 1200 killed since December 2013 and an estimated 2,200 infected.

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