Sierra Leone has been one of the hardest hit countries by the Ebola outbreak, which has been concentrated in West Africa and spread throughout Liberia and Guinea as well. Nearly 4,900 people have died from the virus, according to the latest World Health Organization estimates, with isolated cases reaching countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, and the United States.
Authorities attribute the rise in Ebola cases in the west to the uncontrolled movement of people from the interior to Waterloo, which is the gateway to the capital. There is a strong indication that people are violating the quarantines elsewhere and coming to Freetown through Waterloo, Kamanda said.
If current trends continue, the number of cases in the two western zones may soon surpass a former epicenter of the outbreak in the country — the eastern districts of Kenema and Kailahunl, where there have been a total of 1,012 confirmed cases.
No new cases were reported Monday in Kenema and Kailahun but a World Health Organization spokeswoman said it is too early to declare that the epidemic has burned itself out in the east. “There was a drop in new cases in Kenema and Kailahun and fingers were crossed but there has been a bit of a flare up thanks to a couple of unsafe burials,” said Margaret Harris, WHO’s spokeswoman in Sierra Leone. “So it’s too early to say we have a real decline … definitely too early to say it’s been beaten there.”
Progress in fight against Ebola
There was good news in some neighboring countries earlier this week, however, when Senegal and Nigeria were declared free of the Ebola virus. WHO said the development represents a major victory in the battle against Ebola, and urged the affected countries to study how the outbreak was contained.
“This is a spectacular success story,” WHO Representative Rui Gama Vaz said at a news conference in Nigeria on Monday. “It shows that Ebola can be contained, but we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”
The agency said on Tuesday they hope to have tens of thousands of doses of Ebola vaccines ready for “real world” testing in West Africa as early as January. Currently, several vaccines are going through initial safety testing in humans to look for any potentially adverse effects. If the vaccines are declared safe, health officials said they would be used in trials in West Africa as soon as possible to test their effectiveness.
There are no plans for mass vaccination, WHO said. Rather, the vaccines would be given first to healthcare workers fighting the outbreak on the frontlines, and then to members of communities considered at the highest risk for infection. The outbreak has taken a high toll on health workers in West Africa: according to the WHO, at least 427 have been infected and 236 have died from the virus while working to save the lives of others suffering from this savage disease.