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Ebola Virus Epidemic Update

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to worsen, with cases now evident in six countries, three of which are being treated on our own shores. As of August 4th, the cumulative number of deaths from Ebola in West Africa jumps to 887. As we struggle to continue our work, and the livelihoods of our everyday gandhis family in Liberia, we felt the need to begin the launch of our new website with a long overdue update on this increasingly dire situation from the epicenter of this disastrous outbreak.

In Liberia suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola cases reported thus far stand at 508, reflecting an addition of 37 cases between 2 and 4 August. The total number of suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola deaths reported are 271; and the total number of suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola cases reported among health care workers during both outbreaks stood at 63. Click here and here for the latest UNICEF Sitrep report from the region.

As primary and secondary viral transmissions continue to occur in both urban and rural communities, a global health emergency was recently issued concerning the evolution of the virus across a rapidly increasing space. The major factors responsible for continuous propagation of the outbreak in the sub-region include:

Cultural practices and traditional beliefs, resulting in mistrust, apprehension and resistance to adopt recommended public health preventative measures. This has included several cases of poor health care seeking behavior such as hiding Ebola patients, home-based management of patients, and customary treatment of dead bodies, all of which create extensive and unsafe exposures to Ebola virus to surrounding communities. Furthermore, there have been repeated cases of assault on foreign NGO’s and the World Health Organization whose doctors and nurses have been mistakenly blamed by panicked residents for bringing the virus to remote communities.

The extensive movement of people within and across borders has also facilitated rapid spread of the infection across and within six countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and just recently, Uganda and Benin. Socio-cultural activities that enhance viral transmission are common as well along border communities such as visiting sick relatives or attending to burial ceremonies of relatives across the border. It was not until last week that foreign travel advisories to the areas were even given.

As the situation spirals out of control, reports today claim the health care system in Liberia is in a state of collapse, as medical workers get infected, quarantined or are afraid to work. This also means no healthcare for those inflicted with treatable diseases common during the rainy season such as typhoid and malaria. This will certainly result in several more deaths unrelated to Ebola.

With the details of the outbreak outlined, the question then becomes how and why are we experiencing an outbreak of this measure? The answer to this question is complex, and whose answer can lend itself to several, interrelated conclusions. For example, a recent article from Al Jazeera discusses the relationship between deforestation, climate change, and the influx of deadly viruses. This will most certaintly lead to a chain of explanations that may result in a self examination of the ways in which we inhabit this planet.

More importantly, what are we doing at everday gandhis to assist in the mitigation of this deadly outbreak? We have been primarily involved in three initiatives to curb the spread of Ebola in Liberia. This includes distributing both sanitation buckets equipped with the necessary antibacterial tools to limit the spread of infected bodily fluids, as well as awareness about the disease, its transmission and treatment patterns. Finally, in light of attacks on foreign organizations, we are both consulting/educating NGOs and foreign health officials on appropriate community entry tactics as well as entering those villages ourselves, in which we have established trustworthy relationships.

In order to continue this discussion as well as to keep our community updated, we are awaiting response from two members of our staff, Korpo Blessing and Lassana Kamara who will supply us with a field report detailing their personal experience of the epidemic thus far. In the meantime our hearts and minds go out to all of those affected.

-Jenna Hammerlag, Media Coordinator, everyday gandhis

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