News and updates from the continent

Ebola: Second US transmission; Liberia strike off

Ebola: Second US transmission; Liberia strike off

Oct 15, 2014

Ebola Update 15 October 2014:  Health officials have reported that a second health worker in the Texas, USA, has tested positive for Ebola. Both the health workers treated the Liberian man Thomas Duncan, who died last week after becoming the first person diagnosed with Ebola in America. The hospital will now monitor all those who had contact with the latest patient for signs of potential exposures.

As reports suggest a “real possibility” of further cases and contingencies are being prepared, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the number of people who have now died from the outbreak has reached 4,447. Most deaths have been West Africa, but the United Nation’s Ebola mission chief says the world is falling behind in the race to contain the virus.

The WHO has also estimated that there may be 5,000 to 10,000 new Ebola cases weekly in West Africa by the first week of December. On Tuesday 14 October, the number people infected with the Ebola virus was said to be 8,914 but the organisation believes the actual figures – both infected and deaths – are under-reported. According to the WHO, the mortality rate in the current outbreak is 70%.

The Liberian healthcare worker’s strike was called off for humanitarian reasons, after few participated.

Previous news: Reports on Sunday 12 October said health officials in the USA were deeply concerned by a “breach in protocol” after it a healthcare worker who treated Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, in Dallas, Texas had become the second person to be diagnosed with Ebola in that country.

While it was not clear what a “breach in protocol” meant, it was determined that a female nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital where Duncan died has tested positive for Ebola, in the first case of transmission in the US and the second outside Africa. The nurse had reportedly worn protective clothing during contact with Duncan, who had who arrived in the USA in September.

The hospital is under scrutiny over whether it had properly trained its workers, who had sent Duncan home on 25 September after apparently diagnosing a sinus infection. He returned on September 28 when his conditions worsened.

Dr Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned in a media briefing on Sunday that “even a single lapse or breach can result in infection”.

Liberia’s healthcare workers may strike

The number of deaths attributed to the current Ebola outbreak has climbed to 4,033, according to the World Health Organization report on Friday 10 October The tally brings the total number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola to 8,399.

Also on Friday, the South African government – in collaboration with top private companies and donors – unveiled the Ebola Response Fund, saying that over a million dollars has been contributed in cash and resources.

In hard-hit Liberia, however, The National Health Workers Association wants an increase in the monthly risk fee paid to those treating Ebola cases and government there fears a strike may be imminent.

Liberia’s Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said a strike would have negative consequences on those suffering from Ebola and would adversely affect progress made so far in the fight against the disease. The Liberian government says the scale of the epidemic means it now cannot afford the risk fee originally agreed.

The healthcare workers’ risk fee is currently less than $500 a month, on top of basic salaries of between $200-$300. With some 95 of their colleagues already having succumbed to the disease, they are now seeking a risk fee of $700 a month.

International airports are gearing up to screen passengers arriving from high-risk areas, “human behaviour” remains a risk for Ebola transmission, according to Anthony Banbury, head of the United Nations Ebola mission in West Africa.

“The human response is to care, to empathise, to pay respect to the departed. With Ebola this type of response can be fatal,” Banbury told the General Assembly via video link last week. “As long as there’s one case of Ebola in any one of these countries, no country is safe from the dangers posed by this deadly virus.”

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