The Ebola Crisis - a battle with bloodborne pathogens

September 25, 2014

It has been pretty difficult to ignore the media storm surrounding the Ebola crisis sweeping Africa over the past few weeks and months. Although, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) the situation is stabilising in Guinea - the latest country to be struck by the deadly disease - there are still speculations that the death count could rapidly increase before a vaccine is found.

In Guinea, the situation has "stabilised", according to the Geneva-based organisation, with the number of new infections remaining reasonably constant over the past five weeks. However, the same can not be said for other regions across the continent. 

According to the latest WHO report, there is still an upward trend in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with the number of cases now exceeding 6,000, while the death toll is nearly at 3,000.

An epidemic 
The situation has been made worse by the lack of preventative measures in place, with a significant lack of beds and resistance in the community helping the disease's rapid progression. Data has also been a source of confusion, with old figures masking the real scale of the issue and unveiling an epidemic that is even more dangerous than it once appeared.

A massive shortfall in expertise is making the fight against Ebola far more challenging, with many healthcare workers setting up care centres in communities to train locals on how to educate people about the dangers and fight the disease. However, the health workers in the area are also putting themselves at enormous risk, with the likelihood of infection among professionals much higher than previously assumed. 

As of September 21st 2014, 2,917 people have died from 6,263 cases of Ebola across the five countries in West Africa it has affected. These latest figures from the WHO report 99 more deaths in Liberia since the previous update on September 17th, while there have been four new deaths recorded in Sierra Leone since September 19th and only three new deaths in Guinea since September 20th.

A vaccine
The data indicates that preventative measures are working and are slowing down how quickly the virus is able to spread. However, a new statement from the WHO suggests that a vaccine could be in use by the end of the year. This would be essential for controlling the epidemic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating that the number of Ebola cases could rise to between 550,000 and 1.4 million by January without "additional interventions or changes in community behaviour".

Currently, there is no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola but two possible therapies are currently being tested.

Not a unique problem
However, the Ebola problem, although severe is not unique. Bloodborne pathogens are responsible for a large number of deaths every year and destroys the lives of countless more through diseases like HIV.

In order to fight the wider problem of bloodborne pathogens, it's important that healthcare organisations and manufacturers have the same emotive response, which has rightly emerged from the Ebola epidemic, when it comes to every bloodborne illness and minimising risks.

Every day healthcare workers in the US and Europe are at risk of contracting bloodborne diseases in the workplace through needlestick and medical sharp injuries. However, preventative measures, such as introducing safety devices, can have a definite and real impact on their lives.

Like Ebola, there is no cure for HIV and it devastates lives. All of these bloodborne diseases need to be treated with the same level of importance and severity. 

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