West African Health Ministers Strategise Against Ebola Disease

Mrs Sherry AyitteyAs the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) threatens regional and global public health security, health ministers of the West Africa sub-region will converge in Accra today to discuss the best way of collectively tackling the crisis.

The ministers and their development partners will in the next two days develop a critical comprehensive inter country operational response plan to address the current and future outbreaks.

The EVD outbreak has since March been spreading in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A press statement by the WHO copied to The Ghanaian Times said the meeting would be focusing on the situation, risk assessment, testimonials from Ebola survivors, and a summary of technical discussions and a declaration of the technical plan.

The participating health ministers are expected from Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

They will be joined by partners involved in the outbreak, extractive industry from the affected countries, UN Agencies, CDC, DFID, EU, ECHO, Institute Pasteur, IFRC, MSF USAID and WAHO.

The WHO has so far provided technical assistance through the deployment of more than 150 multi-disciplinary team of experts involved in a range of outbreak response activities such as surveillance, communication and social mobilisation, infection control, logistics and data management.

The statement noted that despite the efforts there had been significant increase in the number of reported cases and deaths of Ebola as well as newly affected districts over the last three weeks.

According to the statement, as at June 23, 2014, the total cumulative number of cases reported was over 635 out of which 399 died.

“This makes the on-going Ebola outbreak, the largest in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread.”

The Ebola disease, formerly known as Ebola hermorrhagic fever, is a severe often fatal illness in human accounting for the death of 90 per cent of the affected population.

It starts with a severe acute viral illness often characterised by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat which is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

The EVD first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan and in Yambuku, and in a village situated near the Ebola River in Democratic Republic of Congo from where the disease took its name.

It is introduced into human population through close contact of the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest.

No licensed vaccine is available for the Ebola disease, though several vaccines are being tested but none is available for clinical use.

Besides there is no specific treatment available, even though new drug therapies are being evaluated. Severely ill patients are given intensive support care. They are frequently dehydrated with oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluid.

In the absence of effective treatment and a human vaccine, public awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures by the individuals, remains the only way to reduce infection and death.  By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman  

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