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Ebola outbreak is a unique ‘perfect storm’

Ebola outbreak is a unique ‘perfect storm’

One treatment center set up to manage 30 patients had more than 70 demanding treatment as soon as it opened, the release said. It takes about 200-250 medical personnel to safely manage 70 Ebola patients, WHO officials have said.

Healthcare workers have been extremely hard-hit by the fast-moving epidemic, with more than 240 infected across the region. There were hardly any doctors in Liberia, population 4.4 million, when the outbreak began, so “every infection or death of a doctor or nurse depletes response capacity significantly,” according to the WHO release.

How did the outbreak get so far out of control? Several factors created a “perfect storm” of disaster, said Barbara Knust, a virologist and veterinarian with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In late March, when the CDC first heard about the outbreak, it sent about 20 staffers to Guinea and neighboring Liberia to help with the kind of disease tracking that has worked in all other outbreaks, Knust said at a Monday news conference sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology.

Those staffers came home near the end of May, she said, because “it was appearing that the outbreak was slowing and quieting down.” But, “just as soon as we came back, that’s when there was a resurgence of cases.” Most of the cases occurred in a corner of Guinea that bordered Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the disease could pass easily among the three countries.

CDC began sending people back to West Africa in June and has sent about 90 since July, she said, with another 500 staffers fighting the outbreak from their desks. But it has not been enough to bring Ebola under control.

“This epidemic has driven home importance of having security in global health,” she said. “A weak public health infrastructure in one corner of the world can really have a ripple effect across the world.”

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