The news from Africa is growing worse by the hour. As we’d reported the other day, there’s a growing Ebola scare in a handful of African countries, and things seem to be getting worse, as the governments try to respond to the crisis, while the local freak out.
Among the latest news:
Top Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone dies of the disease.
Liberia has shut down schools, while the Peace Corps close down in three countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Reportedly, two Peace Corps volunteers have been quarantined after being possibly exposed to Ebola, but neither has shown symptoms.
To make matters worse, locals in some areas are attacking hospitals and doctors — some hospitals and clinics have reportedly been burned down by mobs that are under the mistaken belief that foreign doctors and missionaries brought the virus with them, and are killing people on purpose in order to steal their body parts and then use them for transplants. By some reports, 75% (they believe) of people infected aren’t going to doctors.
The Daily Beast notes that the epidemic has been slowing spreading over 5 months now. So, fears about it spreading rapidly, and internationally, until now, were not taken seriously. Now that might be changing:
According to The Daily Beast, naturalized American citizen Patrick Sawyer became ill on the plane after it left Liberia; once he landed, he went directly to the hospital, was isolated, and died soon thereafter. In response, the West African airline carrier he had used, ASKY, headquartered in nearby Togo, has suspended all flights into and out of Liberia and Guinea as well as Sierra Leone. Until Mr. Sawyer’s death, all 1,201 cases reported to the WHO through July 27, including the 672 deaths, had occurred in one of these three adjacent West Africa countries.
The single case ups the fear factor for one simple reason. The working hypothesis till now had been that Ebola would more or less stay put, spreading town-to-town, affecting only neighboring countries, exactly because it is so fierce. The time from infection to severe illness is typically so fast that it is unlikely that a person would be able to get it together enough to go to the airport while contagious—or else, would be so obviously unwell as to draw attention to himself.
Sawyer’s 1,000-mile flight changes this.
The WHO, and the CDC, are currently not advising any kind of travel restrictions to the region. But I’ve heard others voice concerns that immigrations agents in the countries affected are not sufficiently screening passengers getting on flights leaving the countries (and it’s questionable how well they can screen for symptoms that come across, in the early stages, like a flu).