Health Officials Struggle to Respond to Ebola Outbreak

Gates Foundation and Cuban government join Ebola response in West Africa

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa isn't showing many signs of slowing. According to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of new Ebola cases is climbing at such a rate that health authorities are struggling to manage them.

An investigation of the situation in Liberia has concluded that the "demands of the Ebola outbreak have completely outstripped the government's and partners' capacity to respond."

This week, two new parties joined the fight against Ebola. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $50 million to various efforts. Also, the Cuban government is sending 165 health professionals to offer Ebola care.

"Stay up to date on the current Ebola outbreak."

The Ebola virus can lead to Ebola virus disease, an often fatal illness that is now responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in Liberia alone. At least 2,400 people have died in the current outbreak.

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are at the center of this outbreak, which has now reached epidemic status. Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have also reported cases. The Ebola strain behind the DRC outbreak appears to be different than those responsible for the West African outbreak.

Liberia seems to be hit hardest by the West African outbreak.

According to CNN, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, "the number of new cases is moving far faster than the capacity to manage them in the Ebola-specific treatment centers."

Chan noted, "Today, there is not one single bed available for the treatment of an Ebola patient in the entire country of Liberia."

The investigation by WHO experts and staff at the Liberian Ministry of Health came to three main conclusions:

  • Conventional Ebola interventions are not having enough effect in Liberia.
  • An effective response to Ebola in Liberia requires much more community engagement.
  • Development partners who are supporting the response in Liberia and elsewhere should prepare to increase their efforts by three- to four-fold.

In the first week of October, Cuban health professionals will travel to Sierra Leone to take part in the response there. Although they won't be focusing on Liberia, they will be working to control a region wide outbreak that has affected thousands of people and is expected to continue to grow.

"If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we need the resources to fight," Chan said in a press statement. "I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known. This will make a significant difference in Sierra Leone."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is committing $50 million to the broader effort.

"We are working urgently with our partners to identify the most effective ways to help them save lives now and stop transmission of this deadly disease," said Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Gates Foundation, in a press release. "We also want to accelerate the development of treatments, vaccines and diagnostics that can help end this epidemic and prevent future outbreaks."

To date, only four Americans have gotten Ebola. All of them contracted the virus while working in West Africa. The first two patients — Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly — were treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and have made full recoveries. The third patient — Dr. Rick Sacra — is currently being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His doctors said he seems to be improving each day. The fourth patient, who has not been named, is being treated at Emory.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014