The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Ebola virus, which has killed thousands in West Africa, is “running ahead” of efforts to contain it.
Margaret Chan warned against complacency despite the fact that the situation in some parts of the worst-affected countries has improved.
She said the international community and WHO had failed to act quickly enough and warned that the risk to the world “is always there”.
The Ebola outbreak has infected more than 17,800 people – most of them in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – and the death toll in the three countries stands at more than 6,300.
“In Liberia we are beginning to see some good progress, especially in Lofa county [close to where the outbreak started] and the capital,” Dr Chan said. Cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone were “less severe” than a couple of months ago, but she said “we are still seeing large numbers of cases”.
She added: “Going forward we are now hunting the virus, chasing after the virus. Hopefully we can bring [the number of cases] down to zero.”
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Dr Chan said ensuring communities understood Ebola was key to fighting it. She said teams going into some areas were still being attacked by frightened communities. “When they see people in space suits coming into their village to take away their loved ones, they were very fearful,” she said.
“They hide their sick relatives at home, they hide dead bodies. [This is] extremely dangerous in terms of spreading disease. So we must bring the community on our side to fight the Ebola outbreak.”
In an eastern district of Kono in Sierra Leone yesterday authorities launched a two-week “lockdown”, hoping to halt the spread of Ebola after the area recorded seven confirmed cases in a day. The lockdown will last until 23 December, according to a local official.
Sierra Leone’s junior doctors were on strike for a third day yesterday, seeking access to better medical care should they contract the Ebola virus.
The government’s chief medical officer, Dr Brima Kargbo, said he had toured the main government hospitals in the capital Freetown and found “no disruption in the medical service”. Although junior doctors are not working, senior doctors have reported for duty, he said.
Meanwhile, two film-makers whose Ebola awareness music video was backed by the Duke of Cambridge have died from the virus, the charity working with them has said.
Mary Sesay, 21, and Kadisha Monisha Conteh, 20, from Sierra Leone, were part of the Future View team who wrote and filmed the educational song Ebola is Real to teach people how to prevent the spread of the disease.
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