An Ebola outbreak in West Africa has grown out of control, pushing health officials beyond capacity and endangering millions of lives.
The outbreak has been spreading across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and has been blamed for more than 300 deaths. Governments and international health organizations have tried to respond and contain the outbreak, but now say they are growing helpless against its spread.
“The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave,” Bart Janssens, director of the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press. “And, for me, it is totally out of control.”
The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea sometime at the end of 2013 or the beginning of this year, killing at least 330 people.
The Ebola outbreak is particularly deadly given the nature of the disease. The Zaire strain has a 90 percent mortality rate, while the outbreak centered in Guinea has killed close to 65 percent of those infected.
The disease can be difficult to spot given that its symptoms can mimic other diseases like malaria and cholera. There is also an incubation period of anywhere from two days and three weeks, allowing it to spread far before being detected.
“There is still not a real change of behavior of the people,” Janssens said said. “So a lot of sick people still remain in hiding or continue to travel. And there is still news that burial practices are remaining dangerous.”
The latest Ebola outbreak might be the worst ever, health officials say.
“This is the highest outbreak on record and has the highest number of deaths, so this is unprecedented so far,” said Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders.
An outbreak in 1976 in Congo left 280 people dead, though given the difficult nature of reporting in rural areas, it’s possible that the death toll was higher.
There is much human error contributing to the latest Ebola outbreak, Janssens said. He blamed the World Health Organization for not properly prodding government leaders to act and for the leaders for failing to recognize the gravity of the situation.