As the world struggles to cope with the consequences of an unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa, public health experts on Wednesday urged caution, particularly as the deadly virus continues to spread to West Africa and as new cases are confirmed in the United States.
With a fatality rate of up to 95 percent, the massive new outbreak in Guinea and neighboring Sierra Leone has prompted a host of interventions to better understand its root causes and methods to slow its spread. A U.S. official told Foreign Policy that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spend nearly $600 million to train more health care professionals in the way to quickly detect and treat Ebola victims.
But as the crisis continues to escalate, new and deadly diseases and infections have become part of the epidemic narrative, and public health experts are sounding the alarm about possible public health dangers in the developing world.
For instance, Sierra Leone has just reported cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, a deadly virus that was previously rare but is now spreading rapidly across the country. Sierra Leone officials are now calling on the International Organization for Migration to expand its capacity in a bid to stem the epidemic.
To help stem the epidemic, many of the world’s leading international health centers are raising their game. The World Health Organization has deployed more than 400 health workers to Sierra Leone and is offering specialized Ebola clinics and beds to help curb the spread of the deadly virus.
“They need to come up with a way to stop this now, and stop them from getting any more people infected,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University.
Schaffner is the director of Vanderbilt’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, which will launch a public-health campaign to warn its 1.7 million health care workers about the dangers of working in the region to contain Ebola.
More than 100 health care workers have been infected with Ebola so far during this outbreak, Schaffner acknowledged. That has forced the group to step up its efforts to track the health care workers’ symptoms to ensure the infection is not spread more widely.
“We have been doing our very best to alert all of our doctors,” Schaffner said.
But he also called on health care workers to be wary of their clients’ behavior in the remote bush country.
“The risk is not being seen because they are out of sight in the bush, and they have to be vigilant,” he said. “There is no doubt that people get infected because they
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