Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 27th 2014 Contents A28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, December 27, 2014
Medical detective work will be the next big phase
in the fight against Ebola when the United Nations
deploys hundreds of health workers to identify chains
of infection as the virus passes from person to person,
top UN health workers said.
The health teams will travel to each district and
region of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three
countries at the centre of the epidemic, to trace who
each infected person has potentially contacted.
The effort will run in parallel with measures to min-
imise the spread of infection, such as treating all Ebola
patients in specialised centres and burying all victims
But Phase Two of the plan is to contain the virus
by understanding its lines of transmission, said World
"You chase the virus.
You hunt the virus. The
virus lives in an infected
person so you chase
every case, isolate them
and then all the people
who come into contact
with the infected per-
son," Chan told Reuters
on a visit to West Africa.
She was accompany-
ing UN Secretary Gen-
eral Ban Ki-moon on a four-country tour to encourage
health workers and focus global attention on the fight
against the epidemic.
The worlds worst Ebola outbreak has killed 7,518
of 19,340 confirmed cases, according to
WHO figures on Monday, though the
number of new cases is slowing in most
The disease spreads through contact
with an infected person or corpse, so family
members who care for patients or people
who prepare victims for burial are at risk.
As a result, people often know how they
fell ill. Patients who say they do not know
are a concern because their cases can sig-
nify chains of transmission yet to be iden-
tified, Chan said.
"You dont have control of Ebola until you
know where all your transmission chains are
and until your cases are coming from known
contact lists," said Bruce Aylward, WHOs
head of Ebola response.
"You always hear about disease detective
work and that is what Ebola is about now,"
he said. Contact-tracing involves visiting
households to pick up signs of illness, and
requires co-operation from local authorities
and community leaders.
Illustrating the scale of the challenge, 25
per cent of new cases in Liberia are coming
from new sources, Aylward said. By contrast,
officials in Guinea said in November all the
cases in the capital stemmed from just four
chains of transmission.
The overall cost of the Ebola response
could rise to around US$4.1 billion, said UN
Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro.
To accomplish Phase Two, the UN health
agency will mobilise 900 epidemiologists,
triple the number currently available, he said.
Around half will be foreigners.
The aim is to get teams in place by the
end of January, following a separate plan to
get all patients treated and all victims safely
buried by the end of this month. (Reuters)
West Africas Ebola crisis is likely to last until the
end of 2015, says a leading researcher who helped
to discover the virus.
Peter Piot, who has just returned from Sierra Leone,
told the BBC that he was encouraged by progress
there and by the promise of new anti-viral thera-
But he also warned that vaccines would take time
The current Ebola outbreak, the deadliest to date,
has so far killed more than 7,300 people.
Most of the victims have been in Sierra Leone,
Liberia and Guinea.
Prof Piot was one of the scientists who discovered
Ebola in 1976 and is now Director of the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
He said that even though the outbreak had peaked
in Liberia and was likely to peak in Sierra Leone in
the next few weeks, the epidemic could have a "very
long tail and a bumpy tail".
"The Ebola epidemic is still very much there.
People are still dying, new cases are being detected,"
he told the BBC World Services Newsday programme.
"We need to be ready for a long effort, a sustained
effort [for] probably the rest of 2015."
But he added that he was impressed by the progress
that he had seen in Sierra Leone.
"Treatment centres have now been established
across the country with British help. You dont see
any longer the scenes where people are dying in the
streets," he said.
He also said he was also encouraged that thanks
to simple treatments such as intravenous fluids and
antibiotics, mortality rates had fallen to as low as
one in three.
"Getting it below that will require specific therapies
that are now going to be tested," he said, adding that
he hoped that within three months it would be clear
which anti-viral therapies were effective.
Developing a vaccine would be more complicated,
he said, but must be done "so that when there is
another epidemic or maybe when this epidemic drags
on for a long time, that we have that vaccine available".
Medical detective work is next phase in Ebola fight
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Expert: Ebola crisis
likely to last a year
'You chase the virus.
You hunt the virus.
The virus lives in an
infected person so
you chase every
case, isolate them
and then all the
people who come
into contact with
the infected person.'
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