West Africa on high alert after deadly Ebola outbreak kills 83 so far
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 02 April 2014
The deadliest strain of Ebola virus is spreading through West Africa. Confirmed cases in Guinea, where the outbreak began, now number 127, of whom 83 victims have died. Eight deaths have occurred in the capital, Conakry, with further cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The variant responsible is the Zaire strain; this is the most aggressive form of Ebola, and kills nine out of 10 people who contract it.
Médecins Sans Frontières describes the epidemic as “unprecedented”. The medical charity’s project coordinator, Mariano Lugli, said: “We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country."
But the World Health Organisation has been more cautious in its statements, describing the outbreak as “relatively small”. A spokesman for the WHO, Gregory Hartl, said: “Ebola already causes enough concern and we need to be very careful about how we characterise something which is up until now an outbreak with sporadic cases."
Ebola was first identified in 1976, in near-simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter took place near the Ebola River, from which the name was taken.
The initial symptoms are fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. These signs are swiftly followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, kidney and liver failure, and sometimes both internal and external bleeding.
The virus reaches the human population through contact with the blood, bodily fluids or organs of infected mammals, including fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. The WHO believes that primates do not constitute the reservoir of infection, but are “accidental hosts” – as are humans.
Ebola is transmitted between humans when the bodily fluids of infected people contaminate others, usually through broken skin or mucous membranes. Healthcare staff are particularly at risk. The illness has been known to spread after funerals in which mourners have had direct contact with the body of the victim.
Health Protection Scotland, which provides travel medicine advice on behalf of the NHS, said the risk of travellers becoming infected is “extremely low”, unless there has been direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of infected people or animals.
There is no vaccine against Ebola, though several are being tested. Treatment is limited to rehydration. The WHO says: “Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; testing should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.”
The spread of the virus is contained by isolating the victims and those who have come into contact with them. This process is hampered by Ebola’s incubation period; it can take up to three weeks from infection to the onset of symptoms.
The worst outbreak was in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995, in which 254 people died from a total of 315 infected – a mortality rate of 81 per cent. An outbreak in Uganda in 2000 infected more people – 425 – but more than 200 survived.
As the death toll in the present outbreak increases, the Foreign Office has warned travellers to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to “maintain strict standards of hygiene and avoid eating bushmeat”.
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
Greece crisis: Alexis Tsipras accepts troika bailout proposals with conditions
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
Britain First insist their videos aren't racist in bizarre attack on comedian Jason Manford
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...
£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...