Accra, Ghana (4E) – Health ministers from 11 West African countries hit by an unprecedented Ebola outbreak met with World Health Organization (WHO) officials in Accra, Ghana on Wednesday to plan how to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
The outbreak that started in March already killed 467 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as of June 30. A total 22 new cases of the virus were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between June 25 and 30 and 14 of the infected died, WHO said.
It was the first Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the first simultaneous outbreaks in three countries and the first outbreaks in capitals and cities, Ebola virus discoverer Dr. Peter Piot said in an interview with CNN.
The countries represented in the Accra meeting are Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Ebola survivors and representatives of airlines and mining companies, as well as donor nations were also present in the meeting.
Health experts said the outbreak must be controlled by vigilant hand-washing and hygiene, and isolation of infected patients. Traditional funeral for victims, in which the bodies are washed manually, is also discouraged. Instead, health staffs wearing protective gears are to bury the victims.
Doctors Without Borders, which has been working to fight the epidemic since March, has warned that it can no longer handle the number of patients. Medical workers are also threatened with harm.
Ebola is transmitted through contact with blood or other fluids. The virus’ incubation period is 21 days, after which the infected person starts feeling headache, fever and fatigue. Diarrhea, vomiting and internal bleeding follow. The virus is contagious only when symptoms appear.
There is no cure for Ebola infection but it can be prevented and controlled with simple hygienic practices like washing with soap and water, not re-using syringes, and avoiding contact with infected corpses.