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'The problem of Ebola is in three countries in Africa,' WHO official says

'The problem of Ebola is in three countries in Africa,' WHO official says
WHO official Isabelle Nuttall said all focus for eradicating Ebola should be on three countries in Africa -- Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. (Martial Trezzini / Associated Press)

Amid continuing consternation about the spread of the Ebola virus to two nurses in a Texas hospital from a Liberian patient, the World Health Organization on Thursday sought to keep the focus on West Africa's burgeoning and unprecedentedly large Ebola outbreak.

"The problem of Ebola is in three countries in Africa," WHO official Isabelle Nuttall said, referring to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. "This is where we need to concentrate all of our efforts. We need to bend the curve in these three countries. ... If we're able to stop the disease over there, then we don't have any more to worry about the rest of the world."

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During a Thursday news conference, Nuttall commented on a variety of topics relating to the disease.

'The most important sign is fever'

It's important that people who might be exposed to Ebola be well-informed about the symptoms and how to report suspected cases, Nuttall said.

"If you have signs, you need to immediately isolate yourself and report it," she said.  "The most important sign is fever."

Healthcare workers and others who are in contact with sick or dead patients are most at risk, she said. "The level of contagion increases with the level of sickness. ... The highest period of contagion is at the very end of the disease, basically when you've died."

WHO is not recommending that people who have treated Ebola patients and are not showing symptoms of the disease be quarantined.

On screening at airports

WHO has protocols for screening people who are departing countries affected by Ebola and is developing guidelines for countries that want to screen travelers who are entering, Nuttall said.

However, she warned, that entry screening catches only passengers who have symptoms, and it could give a false sense of security. Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who died of Ebola in Texas, would not have been caught by entry screening, she said.

On preparing other countries in West Africa

The Ebola outbreak is concentrated in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Although most West African countries have had no confirmed cases of the disease, Nuttall said, WHO is working to prepare them for the possibility, especially Mali and Ivory Coast.

"A team is being assembled to go and work with the country to go and check all aspects that need to be checked so we're all confident that should a case be introduced, the adequate level of response will occur," she said.

Checks are being done at main roads that cross the borders, she said.

Follow @juliewestfall and @raablauren on Twitter for breaking news. 

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