Oct 14, 2014 10:54 PM EDT
Hindered by the mass devastation left in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the World Health Organization and other international organizations have found that an accurate assessment of the number of confirmed cases and deaths is an unlikely figure to come across with so many variables in the infected areas. While health officials are attempting to isolate the spread of the disease, fear and ignorance of the disease have allowed for major setbacks to propagate across the West African nations, leading to further casualties of the disease. Now, after months of assessing the situation in the field, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Tuesday, Oct. 14, that the rate of infection may increase by ten-fold, to 10,000 new cases per week as early as this December.
While confirmed deaths attributed to the disease at this point is roughly at half of those treated for infection, the organization suspects that this strain of Ebola has a mortality rate much closer to 70 percent. Though, the strain is still far less lethal than the one seen in the first outbreak of 1976, whose strain had a mortality rate of nearly 90%. But even yet, as problems intensify in the major Ebola hot zones of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, WHO officials are reporting that hundreds of new deaths are reported in a matter of days.
New figures were provided to the public during a news conference held from the WHO's Geneva headquarters, as Assistant Director General, Dr. Bruce Aylward addressed the world's concerns.
Discussing his recent trip to the West African nations afflicted by the viral pathogen, Aylward says that in spite of intensifying efforts by global health officials, the survival rate is now "30 percent at most in these countries and [Ebola] is a high-mortality disease in any circumstance but especially here."
Thought to have been originally transmitted by consumption of African monkeys, a widely eaten delicacy known as bushmeat, Ebola carries similar origins to the global killer HIV and even worse symptoms. Transmittable by blood or mucosal secretions, Ebola has spread in the unsanitary conditions of West Africa, and researchers fear that given time the virus may evolve the ability to be transmitted through the air.
Once infected, the symptomatic stages of Ebola appear swiftly and escalate from simple influenza-like symptoms to hemorrhagic death. The hemorrhagic, bleeding stage, of Ebola typically begins 5 to 7 days after infection, and presents itself in vomiting blood and subcutaneous bleeding, underneath the skin and into organs like the eyes.
As a fast-acting pathogen, Aylward discussed the need for intense escalation in efforts of charitable medical groups over the next 60 days, who must work together along with the World Health Organization to help turn the tide in the fight against Ebola, or "a lot more people will die" Aylward says.
"There's a lot of actors on the ground, and an awful lot of them are working with Ebola for the first time" Aylward says." The challenge right now is making sure all of that adds up to the kind of plan to stop this disease."
And Aylward warns that while hope is a vital component in the fight against the disease, things will undoubtedly get far worse before they get better. And anyone saying otherwise would be misleading the public.
"Any sense that the great effort that's been kicked off in the last couple of months is already starting to see an impact - that would be really, really premature."
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