Africa

Ebola winning the race, says UN official Anthony Banbury

  • 15 October 2014
  • From the section Africa
Health workers spray themselves with chlorine disinfectants after removing the body a woman who died of Ebola virus in the Aberdeen district of Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 14 October 2014.
Image caption The World Health Organization says the number of cases - including deaths - could top 9,000 this week

The UN's Ebola mission chief says the world is falling behind in the race to contain the virus, with thousands of new cases predicted by December.

"It is running faster than us, and it is winning the race," Anthony Banbury told the UN Security Council.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 4,447 people have died from the outbreak, mainly in West Africa.

Meanwhile, a second health worker in the US state of Texas has become infected with the virus.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit by the epidemic, which began in December 2013 but was confirmed only in March.

In other developments:

  • Liberia's transport minister has gone into quarantine after the death of her personal driver from the virus
  • Guinea's president has called upon the country's retired doctors to help out in the fight against Ebola
  • A football player for Sierra Leone's national team says his team-mates have been stigmatised and humiliated as result of the Ebola outbreak

'Unprecedented situation'

US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that "the world as a whole is not doing enough" to contain the Ebola threat.

He will discuss the Ebola crisis in a video conference on Wednesday with British, French, German and Italian leaders, the White House says.

Mr Banbury issued a stern warning on Tuesday, telling the UN Security Council by video-link from West Africa that if Ebola was not stopped now, the world would "face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not have a plan".

Image caption Anthony Banbury addressed Security Council members via video link from Accra, Ghana

He called for more money to build treatment centres and for more medical personnel to staff them.

It follows the WHO's latest projections suggesting the infection rate could reach 5,000 to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if global efforts to combat the spread of infection were not stepped up.

There have been 8,914 cases overall, including the fatal cases, and the WHO says it expects this number to top 9,000 by the end of the week.

The WHO estimates its figures by taking the numbers of confirmed cases and multiplying them - from Guinea by 1.5, from Sierra Leone by 2 and from Liberia by 2.5 - to account for under-reporting.

WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward said on Tuesday that the rate of infections appeared to be slowing in the "historic epicentre" of the outbreak, but warned that it was too early to read this as success.

Media captionThe progress towards an Ebola vaccine - in 80 seconds

In the US state of Texas, a second health worker has tested positive for Ebola. The worker's identity has not been revealed but the person is said to have cared for a Liberian man, Thomas Duncan, who later died from the virus.

The first health worker to have been infected in Texas, 26-year-old Nina Pham, is receiving treatment. The female nurse also contracted the disease after treating Mr Duncan, who was the first person to be diagnosed with the virus on US soil.

Her colleagues at a Dallas hospital say they worked without adequate protective clothing and received little guidance on preventing the spread of the virus.

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Thomas Frieden, has said there had been a breach of protocol by health workers that led to Ms Pham becoming infected.

However, the head of the national nurses union, Roseann DeMoro, questioned this. "The CDC is saying that protocols were breached, but the nurses are saying there were no protocols," she told reporters.

Doctors at the Health Presbyterian hospital said Ms Pham was in good condition on Tuesday.


How not to catch Ebola:

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

Ebola basics: What you need to know

How Ebola attacks

Ebola: Mapping the outbreak


INTERACTIVE
  • Protective Ebola suit

    ×
  • Surgical cap

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    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles

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    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask

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    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator

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    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs

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    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls

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    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves

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    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron

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    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots

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    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.