Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

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  • by Anup Shah
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  1. Introduction
  2. Where does the Ebola virus come from?
  3. Tackling the spread of the Ebola virus
  4. News stories from IPS


The latest Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak in the history of the disease.

The epidemic began at the end of 2013, in Guinea. From there it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. Many of the affected countries face enormous challenges in stopping its spread and providing care for all patients.

Thousands of people have died and many are at risk as the fatality rate from this virus is very high. As the crisis worsens, as well as the enormous health challenges involved, the social and economic consequences may set these countries back, reversing some gains a number of these countries have made in recent years.

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Where does the Ebola virus come from?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US, the initial human infection comes from contact with an infected animal, most likely a bat. From there, human to human transmission spreads the disease.

Virus Ecology Graphic , CDC, August 1, 2014

As The Guardian has noted, drugs and vaccines for Ebola has typically been low priority for the main drugs companies although now there is a new focus and sense of urgency:

Until now, pharmaceutical firms have given Ebola very low priority. The few potential drugs and vaccines under development are now being sped into trials. Healthy volunteers in the UK and US have been injected with a candidate vaccine to test safety. Drug trials will soon be set up in west Africa, but they are several months away and there is no certainty that they will work.

Briefing: West Africa’s Ebola crisis, The Guardian, last accessed, September 27, 2014

As has been mentioned on this site for years, unfortunately diseases affecting the poorest countries the worst have typically received little attention or investment, sometimes as there isn’t any profit in it for drugs companies, which raises a whole set of other issues about drug treatments and access to essential medicines.

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Tackling the spread of the Ebola virus

The CDC also notes that strict isolation of infected patients is essential to reduce onward transmission.

In addition, as a number of these countries are quite poor, aid and health assistance is quite essential as resources are limited for already strained budgets and health departments. While aid has been slow to come, aid on its own will not help; there is a general lack of enough trained staff, basic equipment and appropriate medical facilities to handle the number of people needing care. And that doesn’t even cover the additional services that could be needed for thousands of people who have lost many loved ones, including entire families.

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News stories from IPS

Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to this latest Ebola virus outbreak.

  1. COVID-19 Pandemic has Shown Humanity at its Best-- & at its Worst

    GENEVA, Feb 11 (IPS) - WHO and UNICEF have a long, deep and very special relationship. Neither of us could do what we do without the other.

    UNICEF’s success is WHO’s success, and we are proud to be your partner on so many issues: Ebola, polio, maternal health, nutrition, infection prevention and control, primary health care – the list is long.

  2. We All Deserve Protection From Covid-19

    NEW ORLEANS, US, Dec 11 (IPS) - When I contracted Ebola virus disease in August 2014 while working as a medical doctor in a well-known private hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, I was denied access to a potential cure.

  3. A ‘Cure’ for Ebola but Will it Stop the Outbreak if People Won’t Get Treatment?

    COTONOU, Benin, Aug 20 (IPS) - While people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are slowly being made aware that scientists have discovered two drugs that are effective in treating Ebola, letting go of the fear and anxiety that has prevailed this year will require more work.

  4. The Ebola Crisis: Lessons Learned for Developing Nations

    UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 (IPS) - The Group of 77 has pointed out that the Ebola crisis of 2014-2015 proved that "no country is immune from a disease outbreak, no matter where it emerges"

  5. New Ebola Vaccine Trial Results Offer Hope

    UNITED NATIONS, Dec 23 (IPS) - A new Ebola vaccine may be the first to successfully protect against one of the world's most lethal pathogens, according to a trial involving over 11,000 participants in Guinea.

  6. Ebola Recovery Funds Impossible to Track, Says New Study

    UNITED NATIONS, Feb 01 (IPS) - When the Ebola epidemic devastated three West African countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea two years ago – the international community responded with pledges of over $5.8 billion in funds to fight the disease which has killed over 11,300 people.

  7. Birth Registrations Plummet in Wake of Ebola Epidemic

    UNITED NATIONS, Jul 30 (IPS) - Liberia's Ebola epidemic may have subsided but the after effects are still being felt, with tens of thousands of infants going unregistered at birth, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF says.

  8. "Get to Zero, Stay at Zero" - The Comprehensive Plan to End Ebola

    UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 (IPS) - "The threat is never over until we rebuild," Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma stressed at an Ebola Recovery Conference Friday in New York.

  9. Ebola Recovery Focuses on Strengthening Africa’s Health Systems

    UNITED NATIONS, Jul 07 (IPS) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing delegates in a run-up to an international Ebola recovery conference, said last month that "all of the investments, all of the sacrifices and all of the risks by relief workers" would be squandered if an outbreak of the disease recurs.

  10. As Ebola Approaches Zero, Immunisation Gets a Boost in West Africa

    DAKAR, May 04 (IPS) - As Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Liberia work to end Ebola, critical healthcare services damaged by the epidemic are beginning to be revitalised.

  11. 1.7 Billion Dollars Needed to Improve Ebola-hit Countries' Health Care, Says Oxfam

    UNITED NATIONS, Apr 16 (IPS) - The international humanitarian charity Oxfam is calling on the World Bank and major donors to raise 1.7 billion dollars to improve poor health systems in Ebola-affected countries and strengthen community networks for preventing another epidemic.

  12. Nine Million Children Impacted by Ebola Outbreak

    UNITED NATIONS, Mar 18 (IPS) - Nine million children have been affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, while thousands have lost parents to the virus, according to a new report from The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

  13. Tackling Ebola: Give Autonomy to Local African Communities, Says International Rescue Committee

    UNITED NATIONS, Mar 03 (IPS) - Recommendations on how to eradicate Ebola and avoid future outbreaks were released in a report on Tuesday by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

  14. Football Stars Join ‘Africa United’ Campaign to Stop Spread of Ebola

    MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, Dic 03 (IPS) - The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has joined a number of football stars, celebrities, international health organisations and corporations in the ‘Africa United' global health communications campaign aimed at preventing the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

  15. Ebola Overshadows Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone

    FREETOWN, Dic 01 (IPS) - The outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has dwarfed the campaign against HIV/AIDS, to the extent that patients no longer go to hospitals and treatment centres out of fear of contracting the Ebola virus.

  16. Water and Sanitation Report Card: Slow Progress, Inadequate Funding

    LONDON, Nov 24 (IPS) - The Ebola crisis has thrown into sharp relief the issue of water, sanitation and hygiene in treating and caring for the sick. Dying patients are being taken to hospitals which never had enough water to maintain hygiene, and the epidemic has pushed the system to breaking point.

  17. OPINION: How Ebola Could End the Cuban Embargo

    DENVER, Colorado, Nov 24 (IPS) - When was the last time in recent memory a top U.S. official praised Cuba publicly? And since when has Cuba's leadership offered to cooperate with Americans?

  18. U.N. Concerned Over Ebola Backlash

    UNITED NATIONS, Nov 17 (IPS) - The United Nations, which is working on an emergency footing to battle the outbreak of Ebola, is worried about the potential for further isolation of the hardest-hit nations in West Africa.

  19. Ebola Outbreak Affects Key Development Areas in Sierra Leone

    FREETOWN, Nov 17 (IPS) - The outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has badly affected the West African country's move towards meeting key development goals. 

  20. U.S. Proposes Major Debt Relief for Ebola-Hit Countries

    WASHINGTON, Nov 13 (IPS) - The United States proposed Tuesday that the international community write off 100 million dollars in debt owed by West African countries hit hardest by the current Ebola outbreak. The money would be re-invested in health and other public programming.

  21. Ebola and ISIS: A Learning Exchange Between U.N. and Faith-based Organisations

    NEW YORK, Nov 13 (IPS) - The simultaneity presented by the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus on one hand and militant barbarism ostensibly in the name of Islam on the other present the international development community - particularly the United Nations and international NGOs – with challenges, as well as opportunities.

  22. U.N. Chief Eyes Upcoming Summits to Resolve Development Crisis

    UNITED NATIONS, Nov 11 (IPS) - The continued widespread economic recession - aggravated by the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa - is threatening to undermine the U.N.'s highly-touted post-2015 development agenda.

  23. Hopes of Controlling Sierra Leone’s Ebola Outbreak Remain Grim

    FREETOWN, Nov 06 (IPS) - The fight against the deadly Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa seems to be hanging in the balance as Sierra Leone's Minister of Health and Sanitation Dr Abubakar Fofana told IPS that the government is overwhelmed by the outbreak.

  24. OPINION: Ebola, Human Rights, and Poverty – Making the Links

    CAMBRIDGE, Massachussetts, Oct 27 (IPS) - The catastrophic Ebola crisis unfolding in West Africa offers many lessons, not least for global anti-poverty efforts. These will culminate in a set of targets, to be agreed by the United Nations in 2015, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  25. Despite Media, Rightwing Ebola Hype, U.S. Public Resists Total Panic

    WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (IPS) - Despite media hype, missteps by federal health agencies, and apparent efforts by right-wing and some neo-conservatives to foment fear about the possible spread of the Ebola virus in the U.S., most of the public remain at least "fairly" confident in the authorities' ability to deal with the virus.

  26. Ebola Outbreak Threatens Food Crisis in West Africa

    UNITED NATIONS, Oct 22 (IPS) - The widespread outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which has resulted in over 4,500 deaths so far, is also threatening to trigger a food crisis in the three countries already plagued by poverty and hunger.

  27. Pressure Building on Obama to Impose Ebola Travel Ban

    WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (IPS) - President Barack Obama is under significant pressure to impose a range of restrictions on travellers coming to the United States from West African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak.

  28. Militarising the Ebola Crisis

    WASHINGTON, Sep 28 (IPS) - Six months into West Africa's Ebola crisis, the international community is finally heeding calls for substantial intervention in the region.

  29. Despite New Pledges, Aid to Fight Ebola Lagging

    WASHINGTON, Sep 26 (IPS) - Despite mounting pledges of assistance, the continuing spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa is outpacing regional and international efforts to stop it, according to world leaders and global health experts.

  30. OPINION: Ebola Crisis Reversing Development Gains in Liberia

    MONROVIA, Sep 11 (IPS) - As the Ebola crisis continues to take a toll on people's lives and livelihoods in West Africa, the focus is increasingly not just on the health aspects of the crisis, but also on its social and economic consequences.

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