UK & World News

  • 15 August 2014, 21:16

Ebola Epidemic Is Like 'War Time' Says MSF

Health experts have revealed they are struggling to contain West Africa's deadly ebola outbreak, and described the situation as like being in "wartime".

The charity Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) said if the situation in Liberia is not brought under control then the region will never be stabilised.

"The main thing I come back to is that it is deteriorating faster, moving faster than we can respond to," MSF international president Dr Joanne Liu said.

"To put it in context with my time with MSF, I really feel that it is like wartime, in terms of fear and nobody knowing what is going on.

"We need a response in terms of international organisations and states, and it needs to happen now if we want to contain this epidemic."

MSF, which employs doctors in some of the world's most difficult conditions, has struggled to help control the ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Dr Liu, who made the announcement at a news conference in Geneva following a 10-day trip to affected areas, said it will take about six months to bring the epidemic under control.

It was first identified in Guinea in March and has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and finally Nigeria - promoting increased international concern.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the death toll from the ebola outbreak has risen to 1,145 - with 76 new deaths reported over two days.

The health agency said a total of 152 confirmed, probable or suspected new cases of the fever were reported in that same period in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The plea from MSF, which was founded in 1971, comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the number of deaths and confirmed cases has been vastly underestimated.

The death toll from the outbreak in the region currently stands at more than 1,068 people.

There have been 1,975 confirmed, probable or suspected cases, the WHO said, with the majority in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"The outbreak is expected to continue for some time. WHO's operational response plan extends over the next several months," the WHO said on Thursday.

The UN World Food Programme said on Friday it would now provide food aid to a million people affected by the emergency.

Meanwhile, Olympic Games organisers have banned young athletes from ebola-affected regions of West Africa from participating in the Youth Olympic Games in China.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said three competitors would not be allowed to take part in combat sports and swimming pool events.

The IOC and the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee said it was impossible to rule out the risk of potential infection.

Those from the affected regions competing in other sports will undergo regular temperature checks and physical assessments throughout the games, which begin on Saturday.

The IOC added that there had been no suspected cases of ebola reported in China and "the risk of infection is extremely unlikely".

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