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Is the world doing enough to fight Ebola?
As an outbreak of the deadly virus is confirmed in Uganda, we ask whether it could spread to neighbouring countries.
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2012 12:12

Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, is urging people to avoid all physical contact after an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

"Ebola is the type of disease we see Hollywood movies made about and I think this is the type of disease that causes fear and panic in communities. The world reaction would be different if it was in a major Western city perhaps, but the dynamic of the disease would also be very different."

- Amanda McClelland, the acting health coordinator for Africa at the IFRC

Fourteen people have died since the disease was confirmed in the Kibaale district, in midwest Uganda three weeks ago. And it is said to have reached the capital, Kampala, where one person has already died.

Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases in the world. It is spread by close personal contact, and kills up to 90 per cent of those who become infected. Many die within days of becoming infected.

Africa appears to be most vulnerable to the disease.

There is no known vaccine for the virus, which causes fever and vomiting, and in some cases shuts down organs and causes unstoppable bleeding.
 
Ebola has killed 1,200 people since it was first discovered in 1976.

The Ugandan health ministry says emergency measures are in place to deal with the outbreak, but can medical staff in Uganda cope, and what is being done elsewhere to find a cure?

"Many vaccines are driven by market demand and because it's a disease which surfaces very rarely and doesn't have many cases, it's not something that would be a priority for vaccine manufacturers to develop a vaccine against .... There are in public health terms other diseases which have a hugely bigger priority than Ebola."

- Gregory Härtl from the World Health Organization

Why has this virus resurfaced after so many years? And what measures are in place to deal with the outbreak?

Do African countries have the capacity to deal with this kind of crisis effectively? And, due to the nature of the virus, could it quickly spread to neighbouring countries?

To answer these questions we are joined by our guests: Gregory Härtl, the coordinator of the Media Relations Department of Communications at the Director General's office of the World Health Organization (WHO); Amanda McClelland, a senior emergency health officer and acting health coordinator for Africa at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); and Dr Michel van Herp, an epidemiologist and the Ebola specialist from Doctors Without Borders.

"Here, the index case occurred in a small village and it has touched in the beginning a lot of the same family members. For people who don't understand the evolution of this kind of disease, they think it's a witch doctor's spell on this family. That's why you always have this delay between the start of the outbreak of Ebola and the reaction when we identify the virus."

Dr Michel van Herp, an epidemiologist and the Ebola specialist from Doctors Without Borders


UGANDA'S EBOLA OUTBREAK:

  • An outbreak of the Ebola virus has killed at least 14 people in Uganda
  • Suspected cases are being isolated and hundreds are being tested for the virus
  • The virus was initially isolated to one town but has now spread to Kampala, the capital
  • Ebola causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and sore throat
  • Ebola is one of the world's most deadly diseases
  • Ebola has a fatality rate between 23 and 90 per cent and there is no vaccine to treat it
  • Ebola is a highly infectious virus often spread by direct physical contact
  • Ebola has killed 1,200 people since it was discovered in 1976
  • Uganda has seen three major outbreaks over the past 12 years
  • The deadliest outbreak was in 2000 when more than 200 people died in Uganda

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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