While the world remains focused on the latest outbreak of violence in a variety of Middle East hot spots, history’s worst Ebola outbreak continues to rage across West Africa.
The death toll across Africa from this latest outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever is nearing the grim milestone of 1,000. The World Health Organization warned that the outbreak will get worse before it gets better. The American Centers for Disease Control issued its highest level alert , the first such alert the agency has issued since the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 influenza (bird flu).
Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, president of Africa’s most populous nation, declared a state of emergency on Friday. And Liberian officials warned that the outbreak has begun to force the country’s health care system into collapse.
“People are dying from common diseases because the health care system is collapsing,” Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Liberia’s minister of foreign affairs, told Reuters reporters on Friday.
Treatable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea are left untended because frightened Liberians are shunning medical centers, and these deaths could outstrip those from the Ebola virus by three or four fold, he said.
But his biggest concern is the spreading epidemic.
“We are hearing it is going to get worse before it gets better. We do not know how much worse that will be. My main worry is the fear of how many people will die. Right now it is out of control and jumps from place to place,” Ngafuan said.
“The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries,” a WHO statement released Friday read. The organization warned that many more lives will be lost unless the global community mounts an emergency mission to intervene in the crisis… and soon.