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Ebola Outbreak in West Africa — Global Issues

Ebola Outbreak in West Africa — Global Issues

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  • by Anup Shah
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On this page:

  1. Introduction
  2. Where does the Ebola virus come from?
  3. Tackling the spread of the Ebola virus
  4. News stories from IPS


The latest Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak in the history of the disease.

The epidemic began at the end of 2013, in Guinea. From there it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. Many of the affected countries face enormous challenges in stopping its spread and providing care for all patients.

Thousands of people have died and many are at risk as the fatality rate from this virus is very high. As the crisis worsens, as well as the enormous health challenges involved, the social and economic consequences may set these countries back, reversing some gains a number of these countries have made in recent years.

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Where does the Ebola virus come from?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US, the initial human infection comes from contact with an infected animal, most likely a bat. From there, human to human transmission spreads the disease.

Virus Ecology Graphic
, CDC, August 1, 2014

As The Guardian has noted, drugs and vaccines for Ebola has typically been low priority for the main drugs companies although now there is a new focus and sense of urgency:

Until now, pharmaceutical firms have given Ebola very low priority. The few potential drugs and vaccines under development are now being sped into trials. Healthy volunteers in the UK and US have been injected with a candidate vaccine to test safety. Drug trials will soon be set up in west Africa, but they are several months away and there is no certainty that they will work.

Briefing: West Africa’s Ebola crisis, The Guardian, last accessed, September 27, 2014

As has been mentioned on this site for years, unfortunately diseases affecting the poorest countries the worst have typically received little attention or investment, sometimes as there isn’t any profit in it for drugs companies, which raises a whole set of other issues about drug treatments and access to essential medicines.

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Tackling the spread of the Ebola virus

The CDC also notes that strict isolation of infected patients is essential to reduce onward transmission.

In addition, as a number of these countries are quite poor, aid and health assistance is quite essential as resources are limited for already strained budgets and health departments. While aid has been slow to come, aid on its own will not help; there is a general lack of enough trained staff, basic equipment and appropriate medical facilities to handle the number of people needing care. And that doesn’t even cover the additional services that could be needed for thousands of people who have lost many loved ones, including entire families.

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News stories from IPS

Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to this latest Ebola virus outbreak.

  1. Next Ebola Outbreak Not a Matter of If, but When