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Ebola fast turning into a global health crisis

Health worker disinfecting a health centre in Gueckedou, Guinea.

4 July 2014. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is threatening to become a global health crisis endangering a vast population, warns Plan.

The deadly disease has so far killed 481 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone out of 779 cases. Eight other countries in the region remain on high alert as porous borders have allowed infected people to move the disease to new locations.

“The way Ebola is rapidly spreading, it is no longer a regional health crisis. The threat of the disease spinning out of control now extends far beyond the borders of some of the poorest nations it is currently ravaging,” said Dr Unni Krishnan, Plan’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response.

Plan is calling for a coordinated emergency response across the region with active involvement and support from the international community.

The response to the deadliest Ebola outbreak to date has been impacted by inadequate initial assessments and fragile health systems of affected nations.

“There has been a gross misjudgment across the board in gauging the severity and scale of damage the current Ebola outbreak can unleash. If the international community does not rush to West Africa’s support immediately, we are looking at a dangerous scenario," said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for Central and West Africa.

Plan works in all three affected countries and is responding on the ground supporting the local governments, particularly in the area of public health information and providing material support to contain the spread of the disease.

No cure or vaccine for the virus

Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind which spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease and it kills up to 90 per cent of those infected.

Communities have witnessed horrific scenes of infected people dying with symptoms of severe bleeding from all body cavities.

Plan field staff in the affected areas report of widespread fear and anxiety among the local populations. “People are scared, desperate and worried. The fresh wave of Ebola deaths have increased their fear and feeling of hopelessness,” said Gbaka Sandouno, Plan’s programme unit manager in the Guinean town of Gueckedou which is the epicentre of the current outbreak with 130 confirmed Ebola deaths so far.

Rumours are also rife on the ground making an already challenging response even more complicated. In some cases, local mobs have attacked health workers forcing emergency centres to close.

Read more about Plan's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.