An epidemic of the Ebola virus continues in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. This Ebola outbreak is the most severe in recorded history in regard to both the number of human cases and fatalities.
Staff at Amref Health Africa’s West African headquarters in Senegal are in constant contact with the Ministries of Health in Senegal and Guinea, where Amref Health Africa has an active presence on the ground. As of August 8, 2014, no Ebola cases had been reported in Senegal. Amref Health Africa launched a school program in Guinea earlier this year but has since suspended it due to the Ebola outbreak.
Amref Health Africa’s concerns are for affected communities, for Amref Health Africa staff and dependents, and for the health workers who are treating patients with Ebola. Using our experiences garnered during the two Ebola epidemics of 2000 and 2012 in Uganda, Amref Health Africa is prepared to support the Ministries of Health and other stakeholders in the following areas of intervention:
- implementation of Ministry of Health Contingency Plans through participation in coordination meetings and emergency committees at national and local levels;
- cross-border surveillance;
- protection of staff (Ministry of Health, Amref Health Africa and other health workers);
- training of health providers in infection prevention and control. This includes providing guidelines on specimen collection, storage and transportation for safe delivery of samples to reference laboratories for confirmation;
- controlling the epidemic through early detection, isolation, treatment of new infection, and contact training, including safe handling of body fluids and the remains of those who die;
- counselling for Ebola survivors and their relatives;
- psychosocial support to fight stigma;
- community awareness through community village leaders, working alongside village health teams;
- keeping Amref Health Africa offices updated with latest information and providing advice to travellers to Amref Health Africa offices in Africa.
Ebola is one of a group of viral haemorrhagic fevers which in Africa include Lassa Fever, Rift Valley Fever, Marburg and Ebola, Crimean-Congo and Yellow Fever, each transmitted through various specific routes. The natural reservoir of Ebola is most likely wild fruit bats; humans may contract the virus directly from infected bats, or secondarily from bush animals that are infected by bats. Human-to-human infection is sustained when people come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids (urine, sweat, vomit) from infected people. Outbreaks of Ebola have been reported in various countries over the last 20 years including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.
Infected patients require highly supportive care. The fatality rate is very high, up to 90 per cent, and no licensed treatment or vaccine is available.
The current outbreak of Ebola in West Arica was confirmed in Guinea on March 21, 2014, and spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
The countries affected by the current epidemic have put in place Contingency Plans that involve partners and various strategies including surveillance at ports of entry, in health facilities and in the communities; laboratory confirmation and case management; infection prevention and control; advocacy, communication and social mobilization; coordination and resource mobilization. In support of the above, various documents are being strengthened and disseminated including information sheets for health workers and the public, port of entry screening tools, infection control guidelines, and disease surveillance and response tools.
For the latest information, please visit the World Health Organization’s special web section on the Ebola outbreak.