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Ebola can spread like ‘forest fire', US warns

The deadly Ebola virus can spread like a forest fire, US health authorities said on Monday.

They urged travellers to West Africa to take extra precautions amid the largest outbreak in history.

Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan's Purse relief organisation giving orders for medication to the Ebola patients through the doorway of the isolation unit on the grounds of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr Brantly has since tested positive for Ebola.    

Since March, there have been 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Two Americans — one doctor and one healthcare worker — in Monrovia, Liberia have come down with the virus, characterized by fever, joint pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and often fatal bleeding.

Rapidly changing situation

“The likelihood of this outbreak spreading beyond West Africa is very low,” admitted Stephan Monroe, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

But, he added, it is a “rapidly changing situation” and the CDC must be “prepared for the very remote possibility” that a sick traveller could bring the disease into the United States.

Nigeria was on alert against the possible spread of Ebola on July 27, a day after the first confirmed death from the virus in Lagos, Africa's biggest city and the country's financial capital. 

“The concern is that the outbreak can be reseeded, much like a forest fire with sparks from one tree,” he said.

“That is clearly what happened in Liberia,” he said, noting that the country made it for more than 21 days without cases, but Ebola returned. 

“They were reseeded by cases coming across the border, so until we can identify and interrupt every source of transmission, we won’t be able to control the outbreak.”

Fatality rate

The fatality rate from Ebola can reach as high as 90 per cent, though this time it has stayed around 60 per cent, suggesting that protective measures are having an effect, the CDC said.

The CDC issued a level two notice  — one notch below a call to avoid nonessential travel to the region — warning people to avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids of sick people in the affected countries.

Medical staff putting on protective gear before entering an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun.

The CDC also sent out a notice to health care professionals in the United States, reminding them to find out if patients have travelled to West Africa in the last two weeks, to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of Ebola and to isolate any suspected cases.

Source: AFP

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