- An epidemic of Ebola virus disease is ongoing in West Africa.
- The outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013, but was not detected until March 2014, after which it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
- It is the most severe outbreak of Ebola in terms of the number of human cases and fatalities since the discovery of the virus in 1976 – the number of cases from the current outbreak now outnumber all cases from previous outbreaks combined.
- As of August 18, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a total of 2,473 suspected cases and 1,350 deaths.
- On August 8, the WHO formally designated the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern. This is a legal designation used only twice before (for the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic and the 2014 resurgence of polio) and invokes legal measures on disease prevention, surveillance, control, and response, by 194 signatory countries.
(by Clair Mac Dougall and James Harding Giahyue, Reuters) – MONROVIA – Police in the Liberian capital fired live rounds and tear gas on Wednesday to disperse a stone-throwing crowd trying to break an Ebola quarantine imposed on their neighbourhood, as the death toll from the epidemic in West Africa hit 1,350. [While whole counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been put under quarantine and internal travel restrictions have limited the movement of people in Guinea, the West Point quarantine was the first time such restrictions have been put in place in a capital city.]
In the sprawling oceanfront West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia, at least four people were injured in clashes with security forces, witnesses said. It was unclear whether anyone was wounded by the gunfire…
Liberian authorities introduced a nationwide curfew on Tuesday and put the West Point neighbourhood under quarantine to curb the spread of the disease. …
The World Health Organization said that the countries hit by the worst ever outbreak of the deadly virus were beginning to suffer shortages of fuel, food and basic supplies after shipping companies and airlines suspended services to the region.
The epidemic of the hemorrhagic fever, which can kill up to 90 percent of those it infects, is ravaging the three small West African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country.
Liberia – where the death toll is rising fastest – said its Ministry of Health warehouse had run out of rubber boots and bottles of hand sanitiser, essential for preventing the spread of the disease.
Still struggling to recover from a devastating 1989-2003 civil war, Liberia recorded 95 deaths in the two days to Aug. 18, the World Health Organization said. Since it was discovered in remote southeastern Guinea in March, the overall death toll from the outbreak has reached 1,350 from a total of 2,473 cases.
WEST POINT CLASHES
Witnesses said the clashes in the West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia, started after security forces early on Wednesday blocked roads to the neighbourhood with tables, chairs and barbed wire. Security forces also came in to escort the local commissioner out of the neighbourhood, they said.
Attempts to isolate the worst affected areas of the country and neighboring Sierra Leone have raised fears of unrest in one of the world’s poorest regions should communities start to run low on food and medical supplies.
“I don’t have any food and we’re scared,” said Alpha Barry, a resident of West Point who said he came from Guinea and has four children under age 13.
In an effort to calm tensions, authorities on Wednesday started delivering tons of rice, oil and essential foodstuffs to West Point, residents and a government official said.
The World Food Program has begun emergency food shipments to quarantined zones where a million people may be at risk of shortages. The WHO has appealed to companies and international organizations to continue providing supplies and services to countries at risk, saying there was a low risk of contagion.
FEAR FACTOR HIGH
The Ebola outbreak is putting off thousands of tourists who had planned trips to Africa this year, especially Asians, including to destinations thousands of miles from the nearest infected community such as Kenya and South Africa.
Containing the outbreak requires large numbers of specialist staff to map the epidemic, track people who have had contact with sufferers, and to work in isolation and treatment centres.
The WHO has pledged to massively scale up the international response, but so far there has been only a trickle of additional foreign healthcare workers to affected nations.
“The fear factor is high,” Francis Kasolo, the coordinator of a WHO sub-regional Ebola outbreak coordination centre told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We try and try. It is an ongoing process. The offer is not large. And they have to be the right profile of person.”
West Point residents said they were given no warning of the blockade, which prevented them from getting to work or buying food. Many people in impoverished parts of Monrovia buy food to eat each day rather than stocking it.
Residents also said the closure immediately caused prices of basic goods, including drinking water sold in sachets, to soar.
“We just saw it (the blockade) this morning. We came out and we couldn’t go anywhere. I haven’t heard from anybody in authority what happened,” Barry, 45, who works as a money changer, told Reuters.
The task authorities face is made harder by misinformation. One West Point resident told Reuters the government had sealed off the neighbourhood in order to bring the disease in.
A crowd at West Point looted a temporary holding centre for suspected Ebola cases at the weekend, 17 of whom fled. All 17 were now accounted for and being treated, and the government has abandoned plans for the centre due to fierce resistance.
Meanwhile, Democratic Republic of Congo has sent its health minister and a team of experts to the remote Equateur province after several people died there from a disease with Ebola-like symptoms, a local official and a professor said.
It was not immediately clear if there was any connection with Ebola.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn and Emma Farge in Dakar, Alphonso Toweh in Washington, writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; editing by Daniel Flynn, G Crosse and Robin Pomeroy)
Note: This article first published August 20, 2014. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thomson Reuters. Visit the website at Reuters.com.
Welcome back teachers and students! Please note that the “Daily News Article” generally focuses on national news. However, in an attempt to give you an overview of some major world events that impact the U.S., we are posting a few world articles this week in this “Daily News Article” category. (Also, check out “Background” and “Resources” below the questions each day.) ALSO NOTE: “Answers” emails resume Tuesday, September 2nd.
1. Define quarantine, epidemic, hemorrhagic fever and contagion as used in the article.
2. a) When was the Ebola virus originally identified?
b) List the countries which are currently experiencing outbreaks of the Ebola virus.
c) In which country was the disease first discovered this year?
3. What two steps did the Liberian government take last week in an attempt to prevent further spread of the disease? (see para. 3)
4. a) Why are the countries experiencing outbreaks of Ebola seeing shortages of basic supplies?
b) Why are people in the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia especially experiencing such immediate shortages of food and water? (see para. 17)
5. What did Liberian authorities do on Wednesday to calm tensions in the West Point neighborhood?
6. a) Define contain as used in para. 14.
b) What needs to be established in order to contain the Ebola outbreak Western Africa?
7. UPI reports:
The quarantine and curfew in West Point, an impoverished area of Liberia’s capital, ensures no one can enter or leave. Residents attacked an Ebola observation center there Saturday (Aug. 16), in the mistaken belief Ebola victims from around the country were brought to the center for treatment. Dozens of people awaiting Ebola screenings fled, and looters carried off materials that could further spread the virus.
In declaring the nighttime curfew, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said:
“We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government. As a result and due to the large population concentration the disease has spread widely in Monrovia and environs.”
Consider President Sirleaf’s remarks, as well as what you have learned about Ebola. Do you think imposing the quarantine in the West Point neighborhood without alerting residents beforehand was the best way to prevent the disease from spreading in Monrovia? (If the residents had been warned, do you think they would have stayed in their neighborhood, cut off from the rest of the city? Should the government have established a routine for distributing supplies to this neighborhood before they closed it off? Could the government have done this differently?) Explain your answer.
8. The disease cannot be detected until a few weeks after the person is infected. What steps should the U.S. government take to ensure the disease does not enter the U.S.? (Should flights from these affected West African countries be temporarily blocked? Should travelers entering the U.S. who have recently visited these countries be quarantined for two weeks and then tested before being permitted to travel freely in the U.S.?) Explain your answer.
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- Liberian security forces sealed off West Point, a seaside slum in the capital Wednesday, August 20th, in the latest effort to stop the spread of Ebola, setting off protests by angry residents.
- A resident of the West Point district told the Associate Press by phone that security forces were firing into the air to disperse crowds angry over the quarantine measures. Reuters reported that police fired tear gas at the angry residents.
- The New York Times reported that men hurled rocks and a teenager appeared to be injured by a bullet during the melee.
- People could be seen gathering at roadblocks just outside the West Point area to complain that they had been cut off from their homes. The restrictions made it difficult to get a full picture of what was happening in the sealed-off neighborhood.
- Fear and tension have been building in Monrovia for days and West Point has been one of the flash points. Many residents feel the government has not done enough to protect them from the spread of Ebola.
- West Point residents raided an Ebola screening center last weekend, accusing officials of bringing sick people from all over Monrovia into their neighborhood. In many areas of the capital, meanwhile, dead bodies have lain in the streets for hours, sometimes days, even though residents asked that the corpses be picked up by Health Ministry workers wearing protective gear.
- The Ebola outbreak, which began in December, has killed at least 1,229 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Liberia has the highest death toll, and its number of cases is rising the fastest. In response, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered West Point sealed off and imposed a nighttime curfew, saying authorities have not been able to curtail the spread of Ebola in the face of defiance of their recommendations.
- Sirleaf also ordered gathering places like movie theaters and night clubs shut and put Dolo Town, 30 miles south of the capital, under quarantine as well.
- “These measures are meant to save lives,” she said in an address Tuesday night (August 19th).
- On Wednesday, riot police and soldiers created roadblocks out of piles of scrap wood and barbed wire to prevent anyone from entering or leaving West Point, which occupies a peninsula where the Mesurado River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
- Few roads go into the area, and a major road runs along the base of the isthmus, serving as a barrier between the neighborhood and the rest of Monrovia. Ferries to the area have been halted, and a coast guard boat was patrolling the waters around the peninsula.
- At least 50,000 people live on the half-mile-long point, which is one of the poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods of the capital. Sanitation is poor even in the best of times, and defecation in the streets and beaches is a major problem.
- Mistrust of authorities is rampant in this poorly served area, where many people live without electricity or access to clean water. (from CBS News)
Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.