The latest dispatches from western Africa, where an Ebola outbreak has officially become an epidemic, are not good.
On September 2, Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Friedman warned that the Ebola “epidemic” is spinning “out of control.” This week, with the disease appearing to expand its reach rapidly, his dire prediction was born out.
The World Health Organization warned in a statement on Monday that the virus is transmitting to new patients faster than it can be contained. “Transmission of the Ebola virus in Liberia is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially,” the WHO statement read.
In Liberia, the United Nations health agency raised the alarm over the spread of the disease. An organization staffer confirmed that there are no more free hospital beds anywhere in the country.
“WHO has said more than 3,600 people have been infected with Ebola in this West African epidemic, and 2,000 have died, but the organization predicts as many as 20,000 will be sickened before it’s over,” NBC News reported. “Half of those infected have been dying.”
Healthcare workers are being especially hard hit. “Some 152 health care workers have been infected and 79 have died,” WHO said. When the outbreak began, Liberia had only one doctor to treat nearly 100,000 people in a total population of 4.4 million people. Every infection or death of a doctor or nurse depletes response capacity significantly.”
American healthcare workers have not escaped this threat. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, a fourth U.S. aid worker infected with Ebola arrived in Atlanta for treatment.
Hospital officials say the patient will be housed in the isolation unit, where two other U.S. aid workers have been treated. They recovered and have been released. Another patient, a doctor, is being treated in Nebraska.
Hospital officials released no details on the latest patient, but the World Health Organization says a doctor who has been working in an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone tested positive for the disease. It said the doctor was being evacuated.
There have been a number of Ebola scares in the United States, but no cases of the virus inside American borders have been confirmed. That does not mean that some are not actively trying to make that happen.
“A US federal air marshal has been quarantined after being attacked by a man with a syringe, suspected to be containing an Ebola-spreading substance, at the Lagos international airport,” read a report out of Nigeria in the International Business Times on Tuesday.
Expressing shock over the attack, US authorities said the marshal, whose name has been withheld, has been admitted to a hospital in Houston.
Shortly after the marshal landed in the US, he was received by the FBI and health officials from the Centers for Disease Control.
As a precautionary measure, the marshal was given medication, suggest US media reports.
This Ebola outbreak is already of a different character than any past outbreak of this terrifying hemorrhagic fever, but it is becoming clear that it is a graver threat to international health than previously estimated.