Relief Group Calls Ebola Response Inadequate While American Patients Get Tested for Possible Exposure


Doctors Without Borders says virus cannot be contained without massive mobilization of resources to West Africa.

Doctors Without Borders says virus cannot be contained without massive mobilization of resources to West Africa.

A prominent relief group is calling into question the international community’s response to stop the spread of Ebola, just as concerns in the United States are being raised after a pair of patients showed symptoms of the virus.

On Tuesday, the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center admitted a woman who may have been exposed to the virus. The hospital said in a statement that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be testing blood samples for the virus, but it did not elaborate on how the woman may have been exposed.

“In order to protect our patients, staff, and physicians, even though infection with the virus is unconfirmed, we are taking the actions recommended by the CDC as a precaution, just as we do for other patients with a suspected infectious disease,” Kaiser Permanente said in a press release. “This includes isolation of the patient in a specially equipped negative pressure room and the use of personal protective equipment by trained staff, coordinated with infectious disease specialists. This enables the medical center to provide care in a setting that safeguards other patients and medical teams.”

Elsewhere, a woman who recently returned to New Mexico from West Africa is being tested for Ebola in Albuquerque after showing symptoms similar to the virus, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

While the 30-year-old patient did not have a known exposure to the disease, she had been teaching in Sierra Leone, the report stated. Like the California woman, the patient’s blood work was sent to the CDC to be tested for the virus, with results expected back by the end of the week.

Despite these possible exposures, the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly said the chances of a global outbreak are extremely limited because the virus can only be spread through exposure to infected bodily fluids.

The WHO announced yesterday that the death toll from Ebola has now risen above 1200, with more than 2000 confirmed and suspected cases.

With the epidemic growing, Doctors Without Borders said global efforts to stop the outbreak have been “dangerously inadequate.”

The relief group called for WHO and the international community to provide an immediate and massive mobilization of medical resources to Liberia and Sierra Leone, where there are 0.2 and 0.1 doctors per 10,000 people, respectively.

“It is clear that the Ebola epidemic will not be contained without a massive deployment of medical and disaster relief specialists,” read a statement on the Doctors Without Borders Web site. “The governments of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone are doing everything they can to try to fight this epidemic. Their doctors and nurses have been dying and risking their lives on the front line of this outbreak. They desperately need international support.”

Of particular concern is the situation in Liberia, where all 5 of the nation’s main hospitals in the capital city, Monrovia, were closed last week, with some having reopened at a barely functional level, according to Doctors Without Borders. The outbreak in Liberia could become worse after angry residents on Saturday stole items from a clinic that included infected bloodstained mattresses, sheets, and blankets, which could potentially exacerbate the spread of the virus.

Lindis Hurum, the emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Liberia, said in a press release that the country’s health system is not equipped to cope with the scale of the epidemic, which has impacted every facet of its society.

“We have exhausted our available pool of experienced medical staff and cannot scale up our response any further,” Hurum said. “We desperately need the WHO, countries, and other aid agencies to deploy staff to the field. We are Doctors Without Borders, but not without limits.”

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