U.N., medical aid group make urgent appeal for Ebola aid abroad

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. and the med­i­cal aid group Doc­tors With­out Borders each is­sued ur­gent ap­peals Tues­day for in­ter­na­tional aid to con­tain the Ebola out­break in West Africa.

Se­nior United Na­tions of­fi­cials urged dip­lo­mats to ca­ble their cap­i­tals to send money, doc­tors and pro­tec­tive gear to the af­fected re­gion. The doc­tors’ group called for coun­tries to send ci­vil­ian and mil­i­tary bio­haz­ard ex­perts.

U.N. Dep­uty Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jan Elias­son said Tues­day at a Gen­eral As­sem­bly meet­ing that the out­break was “a test to in­ter­na­tional sol­i­dar­ity.”

More than 3,500 cases have been con­firmed, with more than 1,500 deaths, mak­ing the out­break the larg­est and most com­plex since 1976. Three coun­tries in West Africa — Guinea, Libe­ria and Si­erra Leone — ac­count for most of the cases, but there have also been con­firmed cases in Ni­ge­ria and Sene­gal. A sep­a­rate strain of the vi­rus has been de­tected far­ther east, in the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo, with 53 cases con­firmed, U.N. of­fi­cials said.

Pub­lic health of­fi­cials said the rate at which new cases are be­ing iden­ti­fied is ris­ing. “We un­der­stand the out­break is mov­ing out of our grasp,” said David Nabarro, the U.N. spe­cial en­voy for the Ebola cri­sis.

Mar­ga­ret Chan, head of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said Tues­day that “the out­break will get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter, and it re­quires a well-co­or­di­nated big surge of out­break re­sponse ur­gently.” Her agency has de­scribed the out­break as “a global threat.”

U.N. of­fi­cials said it was im­pos­sible to pre­dict how many more peo­ple would be in­fected, and warned that the vi­rus could spread fur­ther. The vi­rus was ap­par­ently car­ried to Ni­ge­ria by an in­fected trav­eler who flew to Lagos, the coun­try’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, from Libe­ria. It has since been de­tected in Port Har­court, a bus­tling oil city in the south. Sene­gal re­ported a con­firmed case of Ebola af­ter some­one car­ry­ing the vi­rus trav­eled by land from neigh­bor­ing Guinea, slip­ping through the cracks of a sys­tem meant to mon­i­tor trav­el­ers.

A num­ber of air­lines have stopped fly­ing in and out of West African cap­i­tals. But Dr. Chan said a bet­ter way to bring the out­break un­der con­trol would be to im­prove screen­ing of pas­sen­gers at air­ports, rather than re­strict­ing air travel.

The dis­rup­tions caused by the out­break have al­ready led to food short­ages in the most se­verely af­fected coun­tries, and may af­fect the rice and maize har­vests, the Food and Ag­ri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion said Tues­day.

Doc­tors With­out Borders crit­i­cized WHO on Tues­day for not act­ing sooner to bring the out­break un­der con­trol. The doc­tors’ group’s in­ter­na­tional pres­i­dent, Joanne Liu, told dip­lo­mats at the United Na­tions that coun­tries with ex­per­tise in han­dling bi­o­log­i­cal threats should help the af­fected coun­tries by set­ting up mo­bile lab­o­ra­to­ries and field hos­pi­tals to treat Ebola pa­tients.

Be­cause the vi­rus is trans­mit­ted very read­ily through con­tact with flu­ids, med­i­cal care­giv­ers have been prom­i­nent among vic­tims of the out­break so far. A U.S. mis­sion­ary doc­tor who had been treat­ing ob­stetrics pa­tients in Mon­ro­via, the Libe­rian cap­i­tal, has now been di­ag­nosed with Ebola, a Chris­tian mis­sion­ary or­ga­ni­za­tion called SIM an­nounced Tues­day.

WHO is to con­vene a meet­ing of sci­en­tists later this week to de­cide how to put to use ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cines against Ebola.

united nations - Nigeria - West Africa - Africa - Guinea - Margaret Chan


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