WHO says the Ebola outbreak has been “vastly underestimated”

No, that title wasn’t the opening to a vaudeville routine. Turns out that Ken Isaacs was probably, and unfortunately, correct when he told Congress that the official statistics for the Ebola breakout were underestimating the problem by as much as 75%. The WHO is now saying the same thing:

The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, which has already killed more than 1,000 people, has been vastly underestimated and will require “extraordinary measures, on a massive scale” if it is to be contained, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

The admission came as the medical charity Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) said the disease was spreading “faster than we can respond to”, and accused the WHO of being too slow to react to the crisis.

The current outbreak, which is the worst to date, has killed 1,069 people, with 1,975 cases recorded in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

However, the WHO now fears the figures are far from reliable.

The really frightening thing is that the outbreak has utterly taxed the capacity for poor countries like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to treat the sick (and not just people with Ebola; medical care in those countries is breaking down for everybody) and/or quarantine the infected to stop the spread of the disease, so without serious outside help there’s nothing more these countries can do about this outbreak. Meanwhile, there have been 10 confirmed Ebola cases in Lagos, Nigeria, which is a city of somewhere around 21 million people, and if those 10 cases are also a vast underestimate then the virus could be spreading unchecked through a population that’s too crowded together and too massive to control. The international community is going to have to make with the medical supplies and financial resources or else this could go from “really bad” to “total catastrophe” pretty quickly.

I missed this, but there was some discouraging news on the treatment front a couple of days ago when the Spanish priest who had contracted Ebola, Father Miguel Pajares, died even after being given ZMapp, the experimental drug that may have played a part in saving infected US aid workers Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Obviously there are variables to be considered; Pajares might have been given the drug too late for it to work, or given the drug improperly somehow, or maybe his advanced age (he was 75) might have left him susceptible to the disease or its effects despite the ZMapp. But his death still has to diminish the optimism over ZMapp’s effectiveness a little bit.



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