British National Contracts Ebola In Sierra Leone

Ebola virus diseaseA British national living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola Virus, the first Briton to fall victim to the deadly disease that has spread across the West African region since March, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the current Ebola epidemic – the world’s worst ever with 1,427 documented deaths – will likely take six to nine months to halt.

Some aid organisations, including medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, have warned that the outbreak, which began in Guinea before spreading to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, is now out of control.

The WHO conceded on Friday that the hiding of victims and the existence of “shadow zones” where medics cannot go had concealed the true scale of the epidemic.

Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, John Watson, confirmed a British national was among those suffering from Ebola and said medical experts were assessing the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure appropriate care was provided.

“The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low,” Watson said in a statement.

No further details about the British national were immediately available, and it was not known whether there were plans to evacuate the patient.

Ebola, which is passed on by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, strikes hardest at healthcare providers and caregivers who work closely with those infected. Dozens of local doctors and nurses have died from the virus in recent months.

Two American aid workers, who contracted Ebola in neighbouring Liberia and were then evacuated, recovered from the disease and were released from a hospital in the United States earlier this week.

Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centers, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread.

Ebola Fear: South Africa Bans Travellers From Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Ebola FearSouth Africa said on Thursday that due to fears over the spread of the Ebola virus, it was banning travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from entering the country, apart from its own citizens.

Travellers from Nigeria, where there is a much smaller outbreak, would, however, be allowed entry.

South African citizens returning from the three highest risk countries would be permitted entry but subject to a stricter screening process, a government statement said.

The deadly Ebola disease has killed more than 1,300 people this year in the three small West African states and also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.


75% of Ebola Victims Are Women – Health Officials

EbolaHealth officials have said that about 75 per cent of people contracting Ebola are women because they are often the primary care-givers, nurses and traders.

The disease, which has claimed the lives of at least 1,229 people across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, is disproportionally infecting women as the outbreak spreads across West Africa.

Liberia’s Minister for Gender and Development, Julia Duncan-Cassell, said that health teams at task force meeting in Liberia found three-quarters of those who were infected or died from Ebola were female.

She told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom.’

“The cross-border trade women go to Guinea and Sierra Leone for the weekly markets, [and] they are also the caregivers. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.”

The Ministry of Health in Liberia also said about 75 per cent of the Ebola deaths it has counted so far have been women, Buzz Feed reports.

A spokesperson for Community Response Group and a leader of the Social Mobilization Committee on Ebola, Suafiatu Tunis, said that female family members are also typically expected to nurse and tend to sick family members, increasing their risk of contracting the disease even further.

Women in West Africa are also the traditional birth attendants, nurses and the cleaners and laundry workers in hospitals. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, making hospital transmission the likely method by which it would be passed on to large numbers of people.

A WHO spokeswoman in Monrovia, Liberia, Maricel Seeger, said that reaching women and educating them on the disease was crucial to tackling the virus’ spread, as they play a major role as conduits of information in their communities”.

“By reaching the women, they are reaching those who can best protect their families, and their own health,” she said.

Liberia has the highest death toll and its number of cases is rising the fastest. In response, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered West Point sealed off and imposed a night-time curfew.

At least 50,000 people live on the half-mile-long point, which is one of the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods of the capital.