ACCRA, GHANA —
An Ebola epidemic in West Africa is out of control and requires massive resources from governments and aid agencies to prevent it from spreading further, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders said Monday.
Since February, a combined 337 people have died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the U.N. World Health Organization said last week, making this the deadliest outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976. Patients have been identified in more than 60 locations across the three countries, making it harder to curb the outbreak.
Ebola previously has not occurred in the region. It has frightened local residents, who view health facilities with suspicion. This makes it harder to control the disease’s spread, the MSF charity said in a statement.
A lack of understanding has meant people continue to prepare corpses and attend funerals of Ebola victims, leaving them vulnerable to the disease, transmitted by touching victims or through bodily fluids, MSF said.
Civil society groups, governments and religious authorities have also failed to acknowledge the scale of the epidemic and as a result few prominent figures are promoting the fight against the disease, the statement said.
"The epidemic is out of control,'' said Bart Janssens, MSF director of operations. "With the appearance of new sites in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, there is a real risk of it spreading to other areas."
"Ebola is no longer a public health issue limited to Guinea: It is affecting the whole of West Africa,"' said Janssens, urging WHO, affected countries and their neighbors to deploy more resources especially trained medical staff.
MSF has treated some 470 patients, 215 of them confirmed cases, in specialized centers in the region. But the organization said it had reached its capacity.
Ebola, fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, has no vaccine and no known cure. The virus initially causes raging fever, headaches, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and weakness before moving into more severe phases with vomiting, diarrhea and hemorrhages.