Since the first signs of Ebola appeared in the Guéckédou Prefecture of Guinea, bordering the nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone, the tally of cases has now reached almost 6,000 infected. And worse, health officials and statisticians who have been monitoring the epidemic, have predicted that the rate of infection is increasing “exponentially” and that cases will double every three weeks.
Thus, leads to new estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the outbreak could hit 21,000 cases by November if nothing changes. This has the international community mobilizing to slow down the pace of the outbreak that could go for more than a year.
“We’re beginning to see some signs in the response that gives us hope this increase in cases won’t happen,” said Christopher Dye, WHO’s director of strategy. “This is a bit like weather forecasting. We can do it a few days in advance, but looking a few weeks or months ahead is very difficult.”
Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, mandated a three-day “lockdown” of the entire country so that 30,000 volunteers could go door to door to educate residents about the disease and bring any sick people to clinics. Ebola has killed more than 560 people in that country alone, and on Monday, at the tail end of the lockdown, the government announced that the measure identified 150 new cases.
This was the most aggressive movement yet to contain the spread of the disease. Although it is too early to tell whether it curbed the spread in Sierra Leone, this containment was better planned and had fewer violent clashes between residents and police forces, unlike the quarantine of Monrovia’s West Point neighborhood a few weeks ago.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he was sending 3,000 troops to help with logistics, such as building medical centers to treat the sick. Britain and France have also pledged to build medical centers in West Africa.
In Liberia, the death toll is at 1,578, and many health facilities have shut their doors and health care practitioners have stopped seeing patients. This is not only a danger for those at risk of contracting the viral hemorrhagic fever, but people are also dying from other ailments that were once under control, like malaria, measles or high-risk childbirth.
For a fragile country that survived a long and grueling civil war, Liberians are facing the deepest threat yet to their nation. Will it survive?
S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, http://Facebook.com/TheReporterandTheGirl and visit her website at http://www.TheReporterandTheGirl.com