• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 2:31pm
NewsWorld
DISEASE

Fears raised of Ebola outbreak spreading to other countries

Sierra Leone's sole expert in fighting such diseases, who treated more than 100 patients in the current outbreak, hailed as a 'national hero'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 9:17am
 

Fears that the west African Ebola outbreak could spread to Europe grew yesterday, with the EU allocating extra spending and a leading medical charity warning the epidemic was out of control.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned the crisis gripping Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would only get worse and could not rule out it spreading to other countries.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has met global health officials on implementing measures to halt the spread of the disease, as the pan-African airline ASKY suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile the European Union allocated an extra €2 million (HK$116 million) to fight the outbreak, bringing total EU funding to €3.9 million.

"The level of contamination on the ground is extremely worrying and we need to scale up our action before many more lives are lost," said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

We are very much focused on it [Ebola] as a new and emerging threat
PHILIP HAMMOND, UK MINISTER

The bloc has deployed experts on the ground to help victims and try to limit contagion but Georgieva called for a "sustained effort from the international community to help West Africa deal with this menace".

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond chaired a meeting of the government's Cobra crisis management committee to assess the situation.

Prime Minister David Cameron "does regard it as a very serious threat", Hammond told Sky News television.

"We are very much focused on it as a new and emerging threat which we need to deal with."

One person in England has been tested for the disease but the test proved negative.

Bart Janssens, MSF's director of operations, warned there was no overarching vision of how to tackle the outbreak, in an interview with La Libre Belgique newspaper.

"This epidemic is unprecedented, absolutely out of control and the situation can only get worse, because it is still spreading, above all in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in some very important hotspots," he said.

Since March, there have been 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola can kill victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

Togo-based pan-African airline ASKY, which serves 20 destinations, said it halted all flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone following the death of a passenger from the virus after they had travelled from Liberia to Nigeria via the Togolese capital Lome. The 40-year-old man died in Lagos on Friday in Nigeria's first confirmed death from Ebola.

In Sierra Leone, the doctor leading the fight against Ebola died from the virus.

The death on Tuesday of Sheik Umar Khan, who was credited with treating more than 100 patients, follows those of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two American medics in neighbouring Liberia, and highlights the dangers to staff trying to halt the disease's spread across West Africa.

Khan, 39, was hailed as a "national hero" by the country's health ministry.

He died less than a week after his diagnosis was announced, and shortly before President Ernest Bai Koroma arrived to visit his treatment centre in the northeastern town of Kailahun.

"It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral haemorrhagic fevers," said the country's chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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