The World Health Organization has declared that the official death toll for West Africa’s Ebola outbreak is 2,288 as of September 9, with more than 1,000 deaths located in Liberia. As the nation prepares to welcome thousands of American soldiers to the effort against the virus, the nation’s largest newspaper has declared the battle lost, and an Ebola expert says five million could die.
The Liberian Observer, located in the capital, Monrovia, led its news coverage Monday with the headline “The Fight Is Lost,” showcasing an image of workers in HAZMAT suits carrying what appear to be dead bodies. The article showcases a number of opinions by experts who believe the time to contain the virus has long passed, and now humanity must wait for the virus to “burn itself out.”
Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg used the phrase to explain that the virus’ spread was now in the hands of nature. “The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he explained, noting that it was still possible to stop the spread of the virus in May or June; the epidemic is believed to have begun in March. Schmidt-Chanasit emphasized that the time had passed for Sierra Leone and Liberia, but other countries with smaller numbers of cases, like Nigeria and Senegal, still had a chance.
He concluded that up to five million people could die before the virus is contained.
Others quoted in the essay agree, with the uncredited author of the piece noting that, in an urban center like Monrovia, the virus has spread quickly through individuals sharing cabs and, given the hot weather, sweating in shared cars.
The sentiments published in the Observer echo those of a number of international health organizations about the need for states to participate in the containment of Ebola long before President Obama’s announcement that he would be sending 3,000 troops to Liberia to help develop medical infrastructure to treat those affected. The White House has also asked Congress for $88 million to invest in the development of new drugs to fight Ebola.
Before the President’s announcement, private charity groups like Samaritan’s Purse and organizations like Doctors Without Borders were on the front lines of the Ebola fight, and for months, they were calling for the United States to act. Instead, they received minimal help from the government of China, and the CDC focused its efforts on keeping Ebola out of the United States. In early September, President Obama also starred in a video urging west Africans to be careful eating bush meat and interacting with people in ways that could expose them to the Ebola virus.
In an extensive outline released Tuesday, the White House elaborated on the efforts it wishes to pursue to combat the Ebola virus, which includes development of new medicines and working against fraudulent sales of products claiming to cure the virus.