Ebola outbreaks usually are confined to remote areas, making it easier to contain. But this outbreak is different; patients have been identified in 60 locations in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Officials believe the wide footprint of this outbreak is partly because of the close proximity between the jungle where the virus was first identified and cities such as Conakry. The capital in Guinea has a population of 2 million and an international airport.
People are traveling without realizing they’re carrying the deadly virus. It can take between two and 21 days after exposure for someone to feel sick.
Reading about this outbreak brought the opening scene from 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes to mind. In that scene, you see a pilot walking through an airport with a nose bleed. From that scene, you see a single flight path morph into a continuously expanding network of flight paths. Given the length of time between exposure to this virus and when a person gets sick, it is somewhat possible that a person could unknowingly transport this virus from the continent of Africa and spread it around the world. I don’t think it’s very possible given the precautions taken by medical workers who treat this virus, but I think there is a remote possibility given that time-lapse before a person gets sick. The virus isn’t easily transmitted from person to person, and a person only becomes contagious once they’re already sick.
From the same CNN article above, Doctors Without Borders say they already have more than 300 staff members and 40 tons of equipment there, and that still isn’t enough to fight this outbreak. This isn’t something that you hear much about on the news here as we’re constantly deluged with the soap opera antics of Congress investigating “scandal” after “scandal”. Given the nature of international travel, I think that more people should be concerned with the nature of this outbreak. When the doctors treating the people there say that it’s out of control, then that should cause people’s ears to perk up just a bit.
Updated Statistics from the CDC as of today:
As of June 20, 2014, the total number of confirmed and suspect Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) cases as stated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea was 390, including 270 fatal cases and 260 laboratory confirmed cases. Active surveillance continues in Conakry, Guéckédou, Macenta, Télimélé, Dubreka, and Boffa districts.
The World Health Organization has stated that as of June 20, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone reported a cumulative total of 158 clinical cases of EHF (including 147 laboratory confirmations, 34 of these being fatal cases). Districts reporting clinical EHF patients include Kailahun, Kenema, Kambia, Port Loko, and Western. Reports and investigations of suspect cases continue across the country. Laboratory testing is being conducted in Kenema city. The Government of Sierra Leone, WHO, and CDC have sent experts to aid in the response and investigation.
As of June 22, 2014, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia had reported 51 overall clinical cases of EHF, including 34 laboratory confirmations, and 34 fatal cases. All cases reported in June have been from Lofa and Montserado districts. Laboratory testing is being conducted in Monrovia.
I don’t know how many people are paying attention to this, but as someone who deals with international travelers, not a day goes by where I don’t look to see what the latest news is. The last thing I want to do is to see people showing up at my job in those “Outbreak” suits followed by people packing flame throwers. When you see that, you know it’s too late to run.