MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) – As the Ebola virus has yet to be contained, the danger of the deadly virus “spreading outside Africa is real and it grows every day [considering] there are no effective measures taken to [contain the disease] in the three most-affected countries”, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Tankred Stoebe, a doctor and the current president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Germany, warned in an interview with Radio VR.
However, the risks should not be overestimated, he stressed. “We believe that even if more Ebola-affected patients will reach outside Africa, they will probably not spread decease far into other countries because healthcare systems in the developed world are working well enough to keep Ebola at bay,” Stoebe opined.
Unfortunately, healthcare systems are not nearly as good, if not nonexistent in some parts of Africa. In fact, in the three nations most affected by the virus, healthcare was poor when the Ebola outbreak occurred and now it has completely collapsed, Stoebe added. Although MSF has six Ebola treatment centers in West Africa, the virus “is far out of control and we are running behind,” the doctor stated.
“We said weeks ago that we are at the limit of our capacity,” Stoebe lamented. “We desperately ask the international community to bring in more help,” he added. In the expert’s opinion, the most effective efforts to fight Ebola involve more trained staff, more hospital beds on the ground and more treatment centers. “More than 4,000 hospital beds are needed in the three countries affected by Ebola. Less than a fourth of this number is currently available,” he said.
Fighting the deadly virus, which has already claimed 4,922 lives in its latest outbreak, imposes additional obligations on doctors and nurses. “It’s not enough to be a trained tropical medical doctor or a nurse. You need to be prepared for the specific requirements of Ebola. We have a training program in Brussels at the moment. We will have one soon in Amsterdam. We support a training program in Germany. There is a two-day training prior to departure for those who work with MSF in the three countries. But after arrival they will be trained on the spot in our healthcare centers and only then they are admitted to work. We have very tight security and hygiene requirements.”
However, the key to containing Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is people. “We need people to contain Ebola to detect patients and to trace back contact persons” so that they would come to the centers to get checked. “The whole tracing system is not working because of the lack of personnel in the three countries. As long as that is the case, we see no hope that Ebola will controlled there,” Stoebe said.
MSF Germany’s president is confident that we haven’t seen the worst of Ebola yet. “It will be worse than we see today. We are sure we will have to deal with Ebola in these countries far into next year. Our predictions are less and less optimistic. But we hope that in the coming weeks and months we will try to get ahead of Ebola,” Stoebe said.
It is hard to contain Ebola’s latest outbreak because the virus has spread to capitals like Monrovia and Freetown, the doctor explained. “I think, if we are able to limit the numbers of the infection in those big cities, if we prevent Ebola from spreading in the neighboring cities like Lagos in Nigeria, that would be the key to limit further spread. But this needs much more robust intervention by [the international community] and it is in their hands to bring that under control,” he stressed.
Although the situation is grim at the moment, Stoebe believes the virus can be contained. “We certainly believe that in the coming months Ebola should be getting under control. Even in places like Guinea, where it all started,” the doctor hopes, adding the situation is still volatile and it is hard to make predictions.
So far, over 10,141 people have been confirmed to have been infected with Ebola, according to WHO estimates. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, with the incubation period reaching 21 days.