UPDATE 7/26/14: More bad news. A case of Ebola was confirmed in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous city. A man had arrived by plane from Lagos and collapse at the airport. He was immediately taken to the hospital, but anyone he came in contact with is at risk, including the other passengers on his flight (an Arik Air flight that came from Liberia and made one stop in Togo). Here is the latest.
In separate news, we would recommend that you read this dispatch from a doctor who was dealing with Ebola directly in the field.
UPDATE: We strongly recommend reading this article from the Washington Post, which has the latest information (as of 6/29/2014) on the outbreak in West Africa. Unfortunately, the situation has become more serious in recent weeks. What follows is the original post that we wrote on the outbreak. As always, you should heed the latest information from the WHO, CDC, and in this case, Doctors Without Borders, who has been leading on-the-ground efforts to stop the disease from spreading further.
If you’ve been following the news recently, then you are aware of a recent outbreak of Ebola in the country of Guinea. Located in West Africa, Guinea shares a border with 6 different countries and generally has poor medical infrastructure – two facts that explain the particularly high level of concern over this outbreak.
Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), is one of nature’s scarier creations. It has a high fatality rate at 68% (the current outbreak is hovering around 60%) and it is highly infectious. Transmitted through exposure to infected bodily fluids, Ebola spreads most readily in hospitals and medical centers that struggle to meet hygiene standards. It’s important to remember that exposure to infected bodily fluids may involve more than direct contact. For example, an infected person’s bodily fluids can find their way onto surfaces that you may come in contact with – the disease can also be transmitted in this manner.
ALSO, it is important to note that Ebola is only contagious when symptoms manifest themselves. The gestation period can last up to 3 weeks, and an infected person may not see symptoms right away.
Ebola has no known cure or treatment and it can be fatal in a very short period of time. In fact, Ebola is almost too efficient when it comes to killing its host. Rapid fatalities prevent the disease from spreading.
What about this recent outbreak? What do you need to know as a traveler?
Right now, the presence of Ebola has been confirmed in Guinea and Liberia (UPDATE: it has now been confirmed in Sierra Leone, and Lagos, too (1 case). There is speculation that it has arrived in in Mali, but the suspected cases have not been confirmed (headlines like this one are misleading as there are no confirmed cases in Mali at this point in time).
The death toll is currently 661 and the number of cases sits at 1094, according to the World Health Organization.
If you are a traveler in West Africa, you need to be prudent about which areas you visit. If you are in Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia, do not go to a medical center that is treating Ebola patients, and do not attend a funeral for someone that has died of the disease. Do not eat bush meat for any reason, even if you have you confidence in the source. Ebola is relatively difficult to contract, and you are unlikely to encounter it if you heed these principles.
When it comes to the larger sub-region, there are no confirmed cases (outside of Lagos, where there has been 1 case), but again, you should avoid bush meat. It is thought that the outbreak started with the consumption of bat soup in Guinea.
The coming days and weeks are critical to containing this outbreak. Pay close attention to the news. We tend to set up a few google news alerts when outbreaks like this happen. This allows you to receive a daily email digest with all the latest information.
We send our thoughts to all the victims and their families. This is a disease that often affects communities that are already vulnerable. Hopefully, this outbreak will be contained in the very near future.