According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from the current Ebola virus outbreak has reached 6,113.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the Ebola outbreak over in Spain and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the same time, the WHO said, while the number of new Ebola cases is stable or declining in Liberia and only slightly increasing in Guinea, they are still soaring in Sierra Leone, with 537 new confirmed cases in the last week of November alone.
Ebola took the lives of three doctors in West Africa last week: Dr. Aiah Solomon Konoyeima, Dr. Tom Rogers, and Dr. Dauda Koroma. Rogers was a surgeon at the Connaught Hospital, the main referral unit in the capital, Freetown. He was reportedly being treated at the British-run Kerry Town Ebola treatment center. Koroma died at the Hastings Treatment Center, which is run by local Sierra Leone medics. This brings the number of deaths of Sierra Leonean doctors to ten.
Health Workers Strike in Sierra Leone
According to a health official in a CBS report, senior doctors in Sierra Leone went on strike Monday to demand better treatment for health workers who become infected with Ebola.
The association representing junior doctors asked the government to make sure life-saving equipment, such as dialysis machines, is available to treat infected doctors. The government reportedly said that a special treatment unit for healthcare workers will open soon.
In a separate development, the U.N. Mission in Liberia said that a member of its military personnel has tested positive for Ebola. The patient is receiving treatment in Monrovia. This is the third Ebola case in the U.N. Mission.
In its annual report on malaria, the WHO said the number of people dying from malaria has been cut almost in half since 2000. However, progress is being threatened by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has had a "devastating impact" on malaria treatment and the rollout of a malaria control program.
In Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, many inpatient clinics are closed and attendance at outpatient facilities is a fraction of rates seen before the outbreak. The WHO has called for temporary control measures, including giving malaria drugs to all patients with fever and carrying out mass treatment in areas hard hit by both Ebola and malaria.
What’s Happening on the US Front?
Emory University Hospital in Atlanta announced that it is monitoring an American healthcare worker who may have contracted the deadly Ebola virus. The patient arrived from an unnamed West African nation on a specially equipped Phoenix Air jet on December 4.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, initial test results on a man who recently returned from the West African nation of Mali have come back negative for Ebola. The man was tested at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after developing a slight fever and a sore throat. He will continue to be monitored throughout the 21-day period during which Ebola symptoms could develop.
Meanwhile, thousands of nurses nationwide held protest rallies and strikes calling for better protection for health workers who treat Ebola patients. California-based National Nurses United expected about 100,000 nurses nationwide to participate in the protest.
The nurses are asking hospitals to buy hazardous materials suits, which leave no skin exposed, as well as powered air-purifying respirators, to properly protect nurses from exposure. They are also calling for more training to handle patients suspected of having Ebola.
In a separate development, White House Ebola response coordinator Ron Klain, who was appointed “Ebola Czar” in October, is returning to the private sector on March 1. Klain said the United States is more prepared to cope with Ebola at home than it was two months ago. He credited the work of more than a dozen federal agencies involved in the Ebola response.
Finally, the Houston Chronicle reports that state officials have named Texas Children's Hospital as a pediatric Ebola Center. The hospital plans to build the nation's only isolation unit specifically for children with highly contagious diseases such as Ebola.