Ebola Virus Is Spreading in Africa and Frightening Southern Europe

After two weeks from the burst of the epidemic, the Ebola virus has hit Guinea’s population severely, with already 151 cases registered since 7th April, including 95 deaths. 67 of them have been confirmed and 20 cases took place in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. In Liberia there have been 23 suspected cases; seven died and five were confirmed. Another two cases were signaled, but not yet confirmed by analysis, in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Mali.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a series of actions that will bring together experts and doctors to support local communities through the training of health personnel. The only weapon to use in these cases, where neither a vaccine nor a cure is available, is to spread communication among the population and train the local response teams adequately.

The Ebola virus is transmitted to humans through contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected animals.

Photo Credits: EU Commission

Photo Credits: EU Commission

The WHO is also setting up a center to coordinate the management of alerts and emergencies within the Ministry of Health (MOH) of Guinea, in order to centralize the coordination of all activities related to the detection, research, transportation, hospitalization and burial of suspected cases. Remember to support Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and MoH in the management of the isolation ward at the clinic in Donka.

In the press conference that was held on April 8, Keiji Fukuda responsible for Health Security and the Environment at the WHO (WHO) conveyed three main messages:

This is one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks that we have ever faced and right now we have documented cases, both in Guinea and in Liberia, and the reasons why this is one of the most challenging outbreaks is that first we see a wide geographic dispersion of cases, so this has come in from a number of districts as well as a large city in Guinea, Conakry. Two, as you know when we’re dealing with Ebola, we’re dealing with a quite lethal infection and because of that these kind of outbreaks are often surrounded by a great deal of fear and anxiety, creating rumours and making communications both challenging and very important. So that’s one message I simply want to get across; this is a difficult outbreak and it is very challenging.

The second message I want to convey is that from the start all of the levels of WHO, and so this includes the country offices, the regional office AFRO located in Brazzaville, as well as several headquarters programmes, have been mobilised and very deeply engaged in the response. So in terms of what WHO’s trying to do here, our main purpose is really to support the affected countries in terms of trying to prevent infections, stop infections, stop the outbreak, and then make sure that those who are sick get the best possible care.

Now the third message which I want to convey is really important. Ebola is clearly a severe disease, I mean this is an infection with a high fatality, but it is also an infection which can be controlled. We know very well how this virus is transmitted, we know the kinds of steps that can be taken to stop the transmission of this virus and so this is a virus which is transmitted either through body fluids or by close contact with an infected person. And so if people take the right precautions, this is an infection for which the transmission can be stopped and the risk of getting infected is low with the right precautions. What this means is that outbreaks can be stopped through many of the public health measures being taken. Notably identifying the people who are sick infected, contacting or tracing the people who have had contact with those people, and then taking careful infection prevention and control measures, particularly in families and in clinical settings where patients are being taken care of.”

 

Photo Credits: liquida.it

Photo Credits: liquida.it

The viral strain responsible for the disease is “Zaire” (named after the former name of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the place where this type of virus was developed for the first time in 1976), ranked as the most aggressive of the family of the disease.

The symptoms are the following: sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea and impaired kidney function and liver, with both internal and external bleeding.

Some airlines may ask for a health certificate issued by a doctor to allow passengers, Africans, to board any aircraft departing for Europe.

Whereas migrants that fly out from African countries by plane are primly checked, we cannot say the same about migrants who arrive to foreign countries by sea. This means that the Mediterranean European countries are also at risk then, considering that the epidemic has been spreading throughout multiple African countries and could have affected cases that disembark on the European shores.

The alert for the Ebola virus has taken over Italy as well. By a circular dated to April 4, the Italian Ministry of Health announced the activation of surveillance and monitoring measures at the international points of entry in Italy. The note has been sent to the Italian Civic Aviation Authority (ENAC), to the Foreign Ministry, to all regions and to the Italian Red Cross. For the first time since 1970, the note of alarm was also forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.

From 8 to 11 April Lampedusa recorded the largest wave of immigrants since 2011, when over 50 thousands immigrants disembarked on the small Italian island. Since the refugees center was closed for renovations, migrants intercepted by the naval patrols of “Mare Nostrum” were transferred to the mainland, or have been waiting on the quay at the port of Lampedusa in disastrous hygienic conditions.

 

Erika Sciarra

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