One of my worst fears came true the other day. After a general check up with my doctor, I was encouraged to seek out a specialist for some ‘funny numbers’ that came back. It turns out that my blood pressure was quite high and an apparent elevated number of red and T blood cells meant that something ‘not good’ was happening with my heart. After being given some co Q 10 and blood pressure medication, I felt like I had suddenly aged more than I could have possibly believed. I felt as if I had grown 15 years older over night after that.
In 2014, the world witnessed the largest Ebola epidemic in history. There have been over 27,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths across nine different countries since early 2014. That’s roughly six times the amount of people killed in every other Ebola outbreak in history — combined!
Although the rate of outbreak has significantly decreased since fall of last year, new cases of Ebola continue to appear. We’ve seen an immense amount of support from countries across the globe in forms of financial aid, volunteer work from healthcare professionals, health safety education, increased vaccine research, and more. Despite all this support, West Africa continues to suffer.
The three countries most affected (and that still continue to be affected) are Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. While the widespread outbreaks have been contained, there are still areas that continue to be troublesome.
Guinea Ebola Outbreaks in 2015
Here are the numbers for Guinea, as of June 10, 2015:
Confirmed Cases: 3,239
Probable Cases: 419
Suspected Cases: 12
Total Cases: 3,670
There were 38 cases within the three weeks leading up to this date. The cumulative deaths in Guinea total 2,437.
An increasing amount of outbreaks are occurring around Conakry, the nation’s capital, which concerns Ebola experts because of the city’s close proximity to the border with Sierra Leone. The population is this area is very mobile, traveling between nearby districts and countries often, which makes it difficult to contain outbreaks to one small area.
Liberia Ebola Outbreaks in 2015
Here are the numbers for Liberia, as of June 10, 2015:
Confirmed Cases: 3,151
Probable Cases: 1,879
Suspected Cases: 5,636
Total Cases: 10,666
There were 0 cases within the three weeks leading up to this date. The cumulative deaths in Liberia total 4,806.
Of the three countries primarily affected by Ebola, Liberia now has the situation under control more than the others. That wasn’t the case this past fall though. Liberia saw a massive spike in cases, around 300 per week, in August of last year. This lasted until mid-October when there was a major drop-off. Liberia hasn’t had a case of Ebola in the past month from the time of this writing.
Sierra Leone Ebola Outbreaks in 2015
Here are the numbers for Sierra Leone, as of June 10, 2015:
Confirmed Cases: 8,635
Probable Cases: 287
Suspected Cases: 3,979
Total Cases: 12,901
There were 30 cases within the three weeks leading up to this date. The cumulative deaths in Sierra Leone total 3,915.
Sierra Leone still lacks enough quality treatment centers and the Ebola outbreak slowly continues. In addition to the lack of treatment facilities, Sierra Leone is behind in the training of healthcare professionals and monetary support from the international community. There is now a strong emphasis on educating the general public on how to prevent the spread of Ebola, requiring behavioral and cultural changes that many are slow to adopt.
Responding to Ebola Going Forward
The Ebola epidemic has been eye-opening for all countries and we’ve learned a lot from the successes and failures regarding the response to this epidemic. Nations that have limited, in terms of quantity and quality, healthcare centers simply can’t withstand the shock of a sudden outbreak. The healthcare systems in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone all collapsed and people were unable to get healthcare for completely unrelated conditions, as well as Ebola.
Fortunately we are more prepared now than we were a year ago. Hospitals have created new protocols for handling Ebola and other deadly viruses, healthcare workers have received specialized training, and hospitals are using higher quality cleaning materials to take every preventive measure possible. General awareness has increased and citizens in areas prone to Ebola outbreak are being educated on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, the most important steps now are to get the healthcare systems in affected areas back on track and to regulate borders to prevent the spread of Ebola between countries. WHO also continues to encourage investment in healthcare infrastructure so that nations are prepared for outbreaks of any kind going forward.
According to WHO, the international community must stay committed to medical research to create a vaccine and not lose sight of the goal whenever Ebola is no longer spotlighted in the media. In general, the Ebola threat has been contained, but it hasn’t been completely eliminated.
Kyle Stout is a freelance writer based out of Tulsa, OK. As a former health care professional he’s taken an interest in the Ebola epidemic and followed its progress in the past year.
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