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WHO Says Ebola Outbreak May Be Controlled By End of Year

WHO Says Ebola Outbreak May Be Controlled By End of Year

According to World Health Organization (WHO) director Margaret Chan, if new cases of Ebola in West Africa are kept under control, the outbreak could be quelled by the end of this year. “If the current intensity of case detection and contact tracing is sustained, the virus could be soundly defeated by the end of this year,” Chan announced to the United Nations Security Council.

“That means getting to zero and staying at zero,” she said while cautioning that there was still the possibility of setbacks in containing the disease, including undetected cases. The epidemic of Ebola started in Guinea at the end of 2013 and since then has claimed the lives of approximately 11,300 people.

Liberia was the most affected country with 4,808 deaths, with Sierra Leone a close second at 3,949 fatalities. While Liberia was thought to be Ebola-free in May, six new cases of the illness were reported in July.

Chan commented that no new cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia since July, and authorities in Guinea and Sierra Leone have only reported three cases per week in the past two weeks. These numbers are a significant improvement over last year’s numbers; between August 14 and August 16, 2014 there were a reported 24, 48 and 38 new cases of Ebola in Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, respectively.

In contrast to Chan’s optimism, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) cautioned that the outbreak was far from over. “The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is far from under control,” stated the head of the MSF, Joanne Liu.

A large number of new cases are showing up in people not known to have been in contact with other infected individuals. This information, along with the burial of bodies in secret has been a major issue in tracking the origin of transmission of the virus.

“Getting to ‘no new cases in at least 42 days’ — twice the longest known incubation period for Ebola and the way in which the WHO defines the end of the epidemic — will require a major push,” says Lui in an article for Nature.