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Russian medics to work in Ebola-hit W African countries for 5 months

August 21, 2014, 22:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The medics will also bring two mobile modules for examination of patients.
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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Zinin

MOSCOW, August 21, /ITAR-TASS/. Russian medics will work in Guinea for up to five months to help African countries deal with the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, a Russian virologist said on Thursday.

Eight Russian epidemiologists, virologists and bacteriologists will go to Guinea later in the day. Valentin Safronov, head of a specialised anti-epidemic team of the Russian Plague Control Research Institute, said before the departure, “We will be working in shifts, staying there for a maximum of five months overall.”

He said there were no plans to use a vaccine against the Ebola virus disease. “No such task has been set to us. If it is set, I think we will be able to fulfill it,” Safronov said.

The medics will also bring two mobile modules for examination of patients. “They [the modules] can do hundreds of tests a day, each taking no more than three hours,” he said.

The Russian authorities said the risk of the Ebola virus disease getting to the country remained very low.

The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare said it was taking measures to protect the Russian citizens from the risk of EVD transmission.

Over 100 new deaths from the Ebola virus disease (EVD) were registered in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea over the past few days and the number of persons infected with EVD increased by 221, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Overall, 1,350 people have died and 2,473 have been infected since the Ebola outbreak in December of last year. The situation is most alarming in Liberia where 95 people have died in two days, bringing the total death toll to 576.

In Guinea, where an outbreak occurred eight months ago, the number of EVD-related deaths has reached 396; in Sierra Leone, 374.

In Nigeria, statistics have not changed: four dead and 15 infected.

WHO said no cases had been confirmed anywhere else in the world outside these 4 countries.

To reduce the probability of the disease spreading elsewhere, the governments have set up quarantine zones in areas of high transmission including severely-affected cities in Guinea, Sierra Leone and in Liberia. This prevents people living in these areas from moving to other parts of the country and potentially increasing EVD transmission, WHO said.

WHO criticised airlines and shipping companies for cancelling trips to the EVD-affected countries and said these decisions had already negatively affected food and other basic supplies in the region.

The organisation did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied except in cases where individuals have been confirmed or are suspected of being infected with EVD or where individuals have had contact with cases of EVD.

The Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) was first reported in 1976 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and got its name from the river near which the first outbreak occurred.

It is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The United Nations has launched a system-wide coordination initiative to assist the effected West African countries in stopping the spread of the virus, which has left more than 1,000 people dead and is now affecting more than 1 million people throughout the region.

To boost these efforts, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed David Nabarro, British physician and public health expert, as Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola, in support of the work done by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and her team to counter the outbreak of the virus.

Ban earlier named three urgent steps that needed to be taken in response to the Ebola virus outbreak. These include “addressing the severe lack of capacity in the most severely affected countries”. He urged the international community “to respond urgently to the shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment, including protective clothing and isolation tents”.

The second step is a coordinated international response. And the third step would be avoiding panic and fear. “Ebola can be prevented. With resources, knowledge, early action and will, people can survive the disease. Ebola has been successfully brought under control elsewhere, and we can do it here too,” Ban said.

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