The worst ebola outbreak in history just keeps getting worse

The West African outbreak, which has infected more than 670 people, has now spread to multiple health workers

Topics: ebola, Ebola outbreak, Liberia, infectious disease, Africa, ,

The worst ebola outbreak in history just keeps getting worse (Credit: CDC)

Another American aid worker has become infected with the ebola virus in Liberia. The patient has been identified as Nancy Writebol, a worker with the Christian aid group Serving in Mission, which runs a hospital on the outskirts of the Liberian capital Monrovia. Writebol had been working as a hygienist responsible for decontaminating those coming and going from the hospital’s Ebola care center.

The diagnosis follows that of Dr. Ken Brantley, who was working in the same care center for the allied aid group Samaritan’s Purse. Both Americans are said to be in stable but serious condition. Ken Isaacs, a vice president at Samaritan’s Purse, told the AP of the team’s declining morale: “It’s been a shock to everyone on our team to have two of our players get pounded with the disease … Our team is frankly getting tired.”

The two cases fall in the midst of a historically devastating outbreak that has killed 129 people in Liberia, and more than 670 throughout West Africa. The highly contagious disease has no cure or vaccine, meaning aid workers must prevent the spread of the disease altogether. Thus, aid workers and the World Health Organization have to heavily rely on public education and social mobilization to prevent activities that pose a high risk of transmission. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids and organs, so these activities include close contact with infected people and inefficient burial of the dead.

The task is made more difficult by growing fear and misunderstanding from locals, many of whom believe that doctors are directly to blame for the spread of the disease. As the New York Times explained in an article in today’s paper:



Now the fear of aid workers, principally from Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, is helping to spread the disease, health officials say, creating a secondary crisis.

Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away.

Late Sunday evening, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson took action against the rapid spread of the virus by closing several border crossings and mandating the strict quarantining of infected communities.

Joanna Rothkopf

Joanna Rothkopf is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on science, health and society. Follow @JoannaRothkopf or email jrothkopf@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...