WHO ramping up Ebola protection efforts across Africa

The World Health Organization said on Thursday it was increasing efforts to help several African countries fight Ebola if the deadly virus arrives on their soil.

AFP| Updated: Oct 17, 2014, 00:09 AM IST
WHO ramping up Ebola protection efforts across Africa

Geneva: The World Health Organization said on Thursday it was increasing efforts to help several African countries fight Ebola if the deadly virus arrives on their soil.

"It will take time, months, before this outbreak is stopped. In the meantime, we need to make sure it doesn't spread to other countries," Isabelle Nuttall, head of WHO's alert and response arm told reporters in Geneva.

With the death toll from the outbreak ravaging west Africa set to pass the 4,500 mark this week, and the total number of infections expected to exceed 9,000, Nuttall acknowledged that the virus will surely pop up in a number of countries.

"They may have a case, but after one case, we don't want more cases," she said, explaining the push to boost preparedness in Africa.

Most focus will be on Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Mali and the Ivory Coast, which border Ebola-ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Eleven other nations -- Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Nigeria , South Sudan and Togo -- have been singled out for special assistance based on their road and trade ties to the affected region, as well as to the state of their health systems, Nuttall said.

Special WHO teams will visit to help them evaluate their response plans, carry out simulation exercises and make sure they have enough protective equipment in place for health workers in case Ebola does surface there.

Countries need to have systems in place to ensure the sick can be quickly diagnosed, isolated and that their surroundings can be protected, she said.

Being able to rapidly track contacts is of the utmost importance, she said.

WHO will also help create a checklist of the best materials for fighting the virus, Nuttall said, pointing out for instance that open pick-up trucks allowed for far better protection for drivers and health workers when transporting the sick than closed ambulances.

She acknowledged that people infected with Ebola but not yet showing symptoms could easily travel much further afield than the African nations on the WHO list, as has already been the case in the United States.