For the first time since the outbreak, both European Economic Community and United Nations Commissions are discussing the possibility of the disease becoming an epidemic, or even a pandemic.
Epidemic: a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
Pandemic: an epidemic that has spread through human populations across a large region; typically affecting more than one continent.
In a sign that West Africa’s Ebola crisis is worsening, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that more than 700 new cases of the deadly virus were confirmed in the last week for which data is available. WHO’s boarded voted unanimously to elevate the outbreak to the status of “Global Health Crisis.”
The number of people killed by the Ebola Virus is approaching 3,000, an increase of roughly 400 from the last estimate, WHO said. Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, the hardest-hit of West African nations plagued by the virus.
The disease has also touched Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal and is believed to have sickened more than 5,800 people, WHO reported. Just under half of those cases were recorded in the last three weeks.
Of those afflicted by the virus, some 318 have been health care workers — about half of whom have died.
France announced on Thursday that it will establish a military hospital in Guinea in the coming days, while Britain said it will provide 500 more badly needed beds in Sierra Leone. The U.S. plans to send 3,000 military personnel to the region and build more than a dozen treatment centers in Liberia. An American general has already arrived in the Liberian capital of Monrovia to set up a command center. Of note, Doctors Without Borders, an organization that has stood in opposition to efforts by nations of this kind, especially when military personnel were part of the aid has endorsed all of these efforts wholeheartedly.
With no proven preventative treatment for Ebola and only partially effective treatments after symptoms present themselves, public health experts have kept the focus on isolating the sick, tracking down those they have come into contact with, stopping the chain of transmission through travel restrictions and by cordoning off entire communities.