Number of new Ebola cases declining as disease evolves: U.N.

Michael Walsh
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This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) obtained from the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion

This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) obtained from the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, reveals some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion (AFP Photo/Cynthia Goldsmith)

United Nations officials say new cases of Ebola in West Africa have been decreasing.

David Nabarro, who serves as U.N. special envoy for the Ebola response, said that diagnoses have been dropping in the three most affected countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“And the outbreak feels different now. It’s no longer a single outbreak spreading from a central point,” Nabarro said during a U.N. briefing. “It’s a collection of micro-outbreaks, each with its own character and specific needs.”

Nabarro, a medical doctor from the United Kingdom, said the world should be nimble, flexible and adaptable when responding to West Africa’s densely populated urban areas and rural communities.  

He likened actions so far to kicking a log from a fire and leaving scattered embers. 

“Some are burning hot. Others are dying out,” he said. “So it is with the Ebola outbreak.”

Nabarro praised the many donor nations and partner organizations still involved in the response. They realize that the crisis will not be over until the last case of the deadly disease is treated, he said.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, special representative and head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, provided numbers showing the significant progress made in slowing and containing the virus.

Liberia has seen the sharpest decline. New cases fell from more than 300 per week in August and September to fewer than 10 cases per week today.

In Guinea, that figure has dropped from 114 in the last week of December to less than 30 this past week. Sierra Leone’s drop has not been as drastic. It fell from more than 330 in the last week of December to less than 140 last week.

Three months ago, some experts projected that there might be up to 10,000 new cases per week by now, he said.

“Thanks to global response, this scenario has not materialized and the devastating effect of the disease has slowed,” Ahmed said.

On Jan. 15, the U.N. said that at least 50 Ebola hot spots remain in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The European Union and the U.N. have organized a conference March 3 in Brussels to discuss the ongoing problem.