Ebola outbreak ‘most challenging’ as Guinea deaths pass 100; survivors face stigma

The number of people believed to have been killed by the Ebola virus in Guinea has passed 100, the UN World Health Organization says.

It was “one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have ever dealt with” and could take another four months to contain, the WHO said.

The virus had now killed 101 people in Guinea and 10 in Liberia, it said.

Ebola is spread by close contact and kills between 25% and 90% of its victims.

Many West African states have porous borders, and people travel frequently between countries.

Southern Guinea is at the epicentre of the outbreak, with the first case reported last month.

The geographical spread of the outbreak is continuing to make it particularly challenging to contain – past outbreaks have involved much smaller areas.

“We fully expect to be engaged in this outbreak for the next two to three to four months before we are comfortable that we are through it,” Keija Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general, said at a news briefing in Geneva, Reuters news agency reports.

Related: GUECKEDOU, Guinea, April 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation): Medecins sans Frontières (MSF), a medical charity working to contain the virus, has set up two tin-roofed tents in the courtyard of the local health centre. One is for suspected Ebola cases and the other is for confirmed cases.

Now, to the delight of the overworked medical staff, they are building a third tent – for survivors.
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In past outbreaks, the sick were abandoned by their families or just dropped off at the isolation wards. If you survived, nobody would talk to you or touch you, said Ella Watson-Stryker, in charge of health promotion for MSF in Gueckedou.

“Ebola disease transmission is not understood at a biological level in remote villages across Africa where people believe in witchcraft and traditional medicine,” she said.

“It’s sad because people really do want some sort of magic potion or cure but unfortunately all we can tell them to do is wash their hands,” Watson-Stryker said.

SMS messages circulating in the country claimed that a Guinean medical researcher in Senegal has found the cure for Ebola – hot chocolate, Nescafe, milk, sugar and raw onions taken once a day for three days. In nearby Macenta, an angry mob attacked an MSF clinic, accusing the organisation of bringing the deadly virus to their town, forcing it to shut down.

The MSF team has been helping to educate people on how the disease spreads and how it can be prevented. The team is starting to reintegrate patients who have survived the virus…

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