Ebola outbreak in West Africa - declared as a public health emergency

Background information

The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea Bissau in December 2013 but was not detected until March 2012 and has now spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Ebola is caused by a virus spread from primates to humans e.g. fruit bats, monkeys biting humans after which human-to-human infection can take place.  Spread is by direct contact i.e. via broken skin or mucous membrane in contact with body fluids, blood or secretion such as urine, stool, saliva, semen of infected people. Symptoms are sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, sore throats followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function. In some case there is internal and external bleeding. The incubation period is 2 - 21 days and patients become contagious only when showing signs not during the incubation period. A total of 1179 suspected cases with 961 deaths reported by the World Health Organisation as at 6 August 2014 of which 1134 cases and 622 deaths have been laboratory confirmed as Ebola.

 

Challenges

  • The disease is spreading faster than it can be controlled
  • Insufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers, laboratory workers, cleaning staff and burial staff
  • Insufficient health workers to combat disease spread
  • Lack of infrastructure to ensure continued water and power supply
  • Cultural practices that encourage contact with corpses during farewell rites
  • Preventing contact with sick relatives showing symptoms
  • No vaccine, no known cure - even though there would be myths and indigenous remedies to try to combat disease
  • Difficult to enforce quarantine in endemic places except sufficient food supplies and other benefits are provided to reduce movement

 

Prayer points

  • There is urgent need for medical personnel to help curb disease spread
  • There is report that four of the frontline health workers at Nixon Methodist Hospital Segbwema have died and other hospitalised. May the Lord comfort affected and infected patients at the hospital
  • MC Britain sent a solidarity fund of £7,500 in July 2014 - at the onset of the outbreak which was very much appreciated by MC Sierra Leone and assisted the health care workers. However due to increased number of cases, the UN has urgently appealed for more donations and personnel support
  • Pray for effective health education to curb disease spread particularly where illiteracy is high
  • Please remember the welfare of front line workers and their families
  • Pray for discovery of preventive or curative measures to reduce fatality rate

 

Prayer

Listen to our prayer, O God
Do not ignore our plea; hear us and answer us
Our thoughts trouble us, our hearts in anguish within us
The terrors of death assail many and horror has overwhelmed us
Evening, morning and noon we cry out in distress and you hear our voice
We cast our cares on you for you will sustain us
Hear us O Lord, provide for our needs and give hope to those in despair
Comfort those who mourn, strengthen the weary and heal the sick
We call to God our help in times of need
In the name of our Lord and Saviour - Jesus we pray. Amen

 

Thank you for your continued prayers, support and interest for friends in West Africa.


Dr Bunmi Olayisade
August 2014

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