Ebola crisis deepens in Sierra Leone as 532 new cases found in one week

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2014

Handout shows Martin Salia, a Sierra Leonean doctor sick with EbolaThe number of new confirmed Ebola cases appears to be declining in Liberia and Guinea. But today, there is an overwhelming sense of foreboding across Sierra Leone, as the ministry of health published its latest Ebola update. (Photo: Dr. Salia).

A new milestone has been reached, with the number of new cases officially recorded in the last seven days in Sierra Leone confirmed at 532. This is equivalent to almost 11% of the total number of Ebola cases recorded in the country, since May 2014.

The government says that on the 16th of November there were 1,206 cumulative number of Ebola deaths recorded in Sierra Leone since May 2014, an increase of 137 in the last three days, compared to the increase of 36 recorded in the previous four days.

According to the ministry of health, there were 4,967 cumulative confirmed Ebola cases on the 16th November – an increase of 223 cases recorded in the last three days, compared to the 309 seen in the previous four days.

Is Sierra Leone fast losing the war on Ebola?

There were 54 confirmed new cases recorded across the country on the 16th November, compared to the 84 new cases recorded on the 14th November.

Almost 80% of those 54 new cases seen on the 16th November were recorded in Freetown, Port Loko, Bombali and Koinadugu districts.

Freetown continues to account for well over 40% of all new cases recorded in the last seven days.

The total cumulative number of cases in Kailahun was 558. There has been no increase in the last seven days.

Kenema has 493 cumulative number of cases, with no increase recorded in the last three days, compared to the increase of three cases seen in the previous four days.

ebola burial teamsKono now has a total of 57 recorded Ebola cases. This marks an increase of 12 in the last three days, compared to the zero increase recorded in the previous four days, prompting questions to be asked as to what has happened in Kono in the last few days to witness this sudden upsurge.

Bombali has 697 cumulative number of cases – an increase of 19 in the last three days, compared to the increase of 31 seen in the previous four days.

Kambia has a total of 56 cases – no increase in the last three days, compared to the increase of 4 recorded in the previous four days.

Koinadugu 73 – an increase of 18 recorded in the last three days, compared to the increase of 7 witnessed in the previous four days.

Port Loko 711 – an increase of 47 recorded in the last three days, compared to the increase of 68 seen in the previous four days.

Tonkolili 300 – an increase of 12 in the last three days, compared to the increase of 87 recorded in the previous four days.

Bo now has 220 cumulative number of cases – an increase of 17 in the last three days, compared to the increase of 10 seen in the previous four days.

What happened in Bonthe, where for the last three months there has been zero new cases recorded, with a cumulative total of two cases, but has now seen an increase of 1 in three days.

Moyamba 144 – an increase of three recorded in the last three days, compared to the increase of 17 seen in the previous two days; Pujehun 28 – no increase in thirteen days.

Freetown continues to confound medical experts as the rate of infection and transmission in the capital city continues to grow at an alarming pace. The city now has a cumulative total of 1,624 cases – an increase of 91 in the last three days, compared to the increase of 154, seen in the previous four days.

As expected, the national pattern of infection and transmission has shifted in the last three days, with Koinadugu once again joining Port Loko, Tonkolili, Freetown and Bombali at the centre of Ebola’s gravitational pull.

Dr Phillip Oliver - Dr Salia and Sisiter Cecilia at ConnaughtAccording to news from the Huffington Post in the USA, Sierra Leonean doctor – Martin Salia, the most recent Ebola patient to seek treatment in the United States, arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, 15 November. (Photo: Dr. Salia – left, talking to colleagues at the Connaught Hospital a few months ago).

Doctor Salia, a 44-year-old Sierra Leone citizen who lives in Maryland, was recently promoted to chief medical officer of Kissy United Methodist Hospital in one of the poorest areas of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Although he was deemed well enough to travel to the U.S. to seek treatment for Ebola, his condition is critical by all accounts. The Associated Press reported that Dr. Phil Smith, who is helping treat Salia at the Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit, said Salia is “extremely ill” and it is an “hour-by-hour situation.”

Reports vary on when Salia first began exhibiting symptoms of the disease. He tested positive for the virus on the 10th of November.

Videos from the United Methodist Church that feature Salia offer some insight into the surgeon’s career. According to one video, Salia took a pay cut to stay at Kissy. In another, Salia describes how his strong sense of duty toward the people of Freetown and his faith informed his decision to become a surgeon.

“I strongly believe that God brought me here to fix whatever comes to my doorway,” Salia says.

One of the videos shows Salia and his colleagues praying before surgery.

“He could have gone into private service and made a lucrative living,” Bruce Steffes, executive director of the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons, through which Salia received his training, told The Washington Post. “But the fact that he stayed committed to missionary hospitals tells you everything you need to know about who he is and his faith and what’s important to him.”

Kissy is not an Ebola treatment facility, and it is not currently clear how Salia contracted the virus. The AP reported that according to United Methodist News, which cited health ministry sources, the surgeon worked in at least three other facilities.

The Washington Post reported that surgeons who do not directly treat Ebola can be at risk in affected regions, since they can come into contact with patients who may have Ebola symptoms that are masked by larger issues that require surgery.

Kissy United Methodist Hospital closed the day after Salia’s diagnosis, and all hospital staff are now undergoing a 21-day quarantine, according to a United Methodist News report.

Salia is the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to test positive for Ebola and the third patient to seek treatment at Nebraska Medicine, one of four U.S. hospitals equipped to handle treatment of the disease and the hospital with the largest biocontainment unit in the country. Two former Ebola patients, Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance journalist Ashoka Mukpo, were both successfully treated at the facility.

Report reaching the Sierra Leone Telegraph from Freetown, says that local Sierra Leonean doctors in Freetown who are working on developing a new treatment for Ebola, based on blood transfusion – using the serum of recovered Ebola patient, have been treating Dr. Salia before travelling to the USA last Saturday.

There are conflicting reports as to the efficacy and success of the experimental treatment received by Dr. Salia in Freetown, before his condition took a turn and had to be airlifted to the USA.

Although the use of serum from recovered Ebola patience is not new, scientists and medical experts across the world are less than satisfied with the results achieved in various trials. It seems the only hope now is the development of a vaccine for the virus.

And as the world waits for a vaccine to be developed and manufactured in sufficient quantity and at affordable cost, the people of Sierra Leone in the meantime continue to count with horror, the growing number of new Ebola cases that are mushrooming all over the country, particular in the capital Freetown and the northern districts.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph estimates that more than 10,000 people will be infected with the virus by March 2015 in Sierra Leone, should the current pattern and rates of infection and transmission  continue.

Is Sierra Leone fast losing the war on Ebola, despite several hundreds of the world’s best medical experts and virologists, camping in every corner of the country, trying to save lives?

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