Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone 'catastrophic'
President Obama addressed the troops fighting Ebola in West Africa, claiming that the disease in Liberia showed signs of abating. That's what the WHO said earlier in the week, but some observers on the ground point out that simply counting Ebola cases in hospitals is pretty useless because most new cases are being treated by the family in their homes.
Deaths perweek from Ebola in Liberia are down slightly so perhaps there's a glimmer of hope.
But no such hope exists in Sierra Leone where Doctors Without Borders is reporting that whole villages are wiped out and the disease keeps popping up in new places all the time.
Ebola has wiped out whole villages in Sierra Leone and may have caused many more deaths than the nearly 5,000 official global toll, a senior coordinator of the medical aid group MSF said Friday.
Rony Zachariah of Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, said after visiting Sierra Leone that the Ebola figures were "under-reported", in an interview with AFP on the sidelines of a medical conference in Barcelona.
"The situation is catastrophic. There are several villages and communities that have been basically wiped out. In one of the villages I went to, there were 40 inhabitants and 39 died," he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published revised figures on Friday showing 4,951 people have died of Ebola and there was a total of 13,567 reported cases.
"The WHO says there is a correction factor of 2.5, so maybe it is 2.5 times higher and maybe that is not far from the truth. It could be 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000," said Zachariah.
He stressed that "whole communities have disappeared but many of them are not in the statistics. The situation on the ground is actually much worse."
He added that in some places the local healthcare systems were overwhelmed.
"You have one nurse for 10,000 people and then you lose 10, 11, 12 nurses. How is the health system going to work?"
It doesn't, and that's why it doesn't matter what happens in Liberia. We're not quite there yet, but a tipping point is approaching where the outbreak in Sierra Leone becomes so bad that thousands will try to flee the country. Once the virus escapes to other African countries, it's only a matter of time before it shows up in America. The few cases we've had here have been manageable, but what if there are a dozen cases? What if there are a lot of people like Nurse Hickox who don't care to be quarantined?
We are far better equipped to handle an outbreak but that doesn't mean we're safe. Word is that the worst case scenario for the US is to have 130 cases by year's end. That means thousands of people quarantined. How many of those will fight it in court?
Ebola as a political issue may have faded, but it threatens to come roaring back before the end of the year.