Monday, August 4, 2014

Ebola Outbreak Update: July 31-August 1
The World Health Organization has posted updated information on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Between July 31 and August 1 there were 163 new (presumptive) cases with 61 deaths; cases are being reported from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The total number of presumptive cases is now 1,603 with 887 deaths; at this point the outbreak is nowhere near contained and current infection control efforts appear inadequate. Unfortunately there are no Ebola-specific therapies available; treatment is supportive in nature and the disease carries a very high mortality rate (71-86% based on a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine).

Total Ebola Cases/ Deaths Per Country to Date
As noted recently by CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden "Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population." From an infection control standpoint preventing disease transmission is relatively easy, at least on paper and in resource-rich environments. The disease can be prevented by preventing contact with potentially infected blood and body fluids in people with suspected infection, coupled with aggressive contact tracing, monitoring and isolation of people who may have been exposed. This said, there are many barriers to effectively controlling the current epidemic, not the least of which is access to critical infection control resources and personnel.

One of the factors that promoted the expansion of the current outbreak was the long time it took for the outbreak to be recognized. Cases of people with a disease characterized by vomiting and diarrhea with a high mortality rate were first identified in clusters in Guinea in December 2013; the outbreak was not reported to international authorities until March 2014. As a global community we need to promote access to resources and technology that support the rapid detection and diagnosis of key infectious diseases; this is in all of our best interests. This current outbreak is yet another reminder that new (and old) diseases will continue to emerge and that something that emerges in a 'remote' part of the world can rapidly become a global issue.

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