W.H.O. to Focus on Containing Ebola in Africa

Enviado por Bruno Cercal

NYT – Geneva. The World Health Organization said Thursday that it was planning to “ramp up” efforts to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading outside the three West African counties where it is now concentrated but that it was not recommending screening for travelers arriving at airports.

Six months into the Ebola outbreak, the W.H.O. is focusing on 15 African countries with communications and trade links with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries at the heart of the epidemic, Isabelle Nuttall, the organization’s director overseeing global alert and response capacity, told a news briefing in Geneva.

“Our data shows cases are doubling every four weeks,” Ms. Nuttall said, reporting the latest W.H.O. assessment that the number of people killed by the disease will pass 4,500 this week and the number of people infected with it will rise to over 9,000 this week.

It was clear that the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is still deteriorating, the W.H.O. said in its latest update released on Wednesday, describing transmission as “rampant” in Sierra Leone and reporting a spike in cases in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, as well as new cases of infection in districts bordering Ivory Coast.

As mounting alarm in the United States prompted some lawmakers to urge a ban on travel with the three worst-hit countries, Ms. Nuttall said countries needed to realize that even screening arrivals at airports did not give 100 percent security and could create a false sense of security.

Screening arrivals will catch only those people who are displaying symptoms of the disease and would not have caught the infection carried by the Liberian man who brought the virus to the United States, she said, pointing out that “things can happen” after people pass through screening and enter the country.

The W.H.O. understood why some countries had taken this measure but was not recommending it for now, Ms. Nuttall said. Rather, it was recommending exit screening in the three most affected countries.

“The problem of Ebola is in three countries in Africa: this is where we need to concentrate all our efforts,” Ms. Nuttal said.

To try to keep the epidemic from spreading outside the three worst-hit countries, the organization was concentrating its effort to “ramp up” preparedness on four countries that have land borders with them, Ms. Nuttall said.

“As the number of cases rises, it wouldn’t be a surprise to have cases in the neighboring countries,” Ms. Nuttall said.

The W.H.O. will dispatch teams of experts to two of them, Ivory Coast and Mali, in the next few days to run simulation exercises testing their readiness for dealing with any case of infection, she added.

The teams will test the neighbors’ readiness to set up rapid response teams that can deploy quickly to identify any reported infection, take samples and trace people who had contact with any suspected infection.

They will also advise on infection prevention and control, engage with local communities to raise public awareness of what to do if they encounter people infected with the disease, and ensure laboratories are in place or that health authorities know where and how to send samples for diagnosis.

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