The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa continues to escalate, with 1975 cases and 1069 deaths reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
No new cases have been detected in Nigeria following the importation of a case in an air traveller last month. Extensive contact tracing and monitoring, implemented with support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has kept the number of additional cases small.
Elsewhere, the outbreak is expected to continue for some time. WHO’s operational response plan extends over the next several months. Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.
WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and others.
The World Food Programme is using its well-developed logistics to deliver food to the more than one million people locked down in the quarantine zones, where the borders of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone intersect. Several countries have agreed to support the provision of priority food staples for this population.
Practical on-the-ground intelligence is the backbone of a coordinated response. WHO is mapping the outbreak, in great detail, to pinpoint areas of ongoing transmission and locate treatment facilities and supplies. Good logistical support depends on knowing which facilities need disinfectants or personal protective equipment, where new isolation facilities need to be built, and where the need for more health-care workers is most intense.
CDC is equipping the hardest-hit countries with computer hardware and software that will soon allow real-time reporting of cases and analysis of trends. This also strengthens the framework for a scaled-up response.
Today, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan held discussions with a group of ambassadors from Geneva’s United Nations missions. The meeting aimed to identify the most urgent needs within countries and match them with rapid international support.
These steps align with recognition of the extraordinary measures needed, on a massive scale, to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear.