West Africa is seeing its worst Ebola outbreak since 2005, and it is every bit as terrifying as you can imagine. The incurable deadly virus has already claimed at least 83 lives in Guinea and Liberia , reports the World Health Organization (WHO):
The Washington Post noted that as of today, the death toll has climbed to 86. And those who have been diagnosed with the virus — which causes severe internal bleeding and is transferrable via bodily fluids — have virtually zero chance of survival, especially in Guinea, where health care facilities are scarce. According to the Post, people have stopped shaking hands or going to church for fear of getting the virus. And those who do contract the disease are sent into isolation, where they wait to die:
Ebola is so virulent that those who do test positive can only wait to die in a special ward where they are treated by medical personnel wearing protective suits and gear. The Zaire strain detected in Guinea kills up to 90 percent of its victims, and with no cure all that can be done is to make patients comfortable as their organs begin failing... Those who have been exposed to Ebola in southern Guinea are kept in one ward. If it’s confirmed they do have Ebola, they then are moved to the second pavilion to await death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the symptoms for Ebola are, disturbingly, rather generic. They include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and lack of appetite — a lot of what you might feel if you had the flu. The CDC adds that some patients experience a rash, red eyes, hiccups, cough, sore throat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing and (at least this one is specific) bleeding inside and outside of the body. And the extremely basic preventative advice doled out by WHO does not inspire confidence:
But one health expert, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department's Dr. Jean-Louis Mosser, said that basic precautions are basically the only defense against the contagious disease. He says from Guinea:
Some people in the street were wearing masks. This is useless, because as a general rule, the virus is not transmitted through air... Ebola may be very lethal, but it can be stopped by isolating patients and protecting those who have direct contact with them.
He adds, however, that now that authorities and citizens are aware of the outbreak it will likely be contained. WHO has not issued any travel warnings, and has maintained that tourists have little to fear. But Doctors Without Borders is taking a more alarmist stance, per Reuters:
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned of an unprecedented epidemic that is testing weak health systems across West Africa. Suspected cases of one of the world's most lethal infectious diseases have also been reported in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Reuters adds that a number of foreign mining firms have halted work in Guinea and pulled some international staffers from their operation.