Three West African countries at the center of the region's Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak saw no letup in infections last week, reporting 49 new cases and 12 more deaths, most of them in Sierra Leone, according to an update yesterday from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia all reported new cases, boosting the overall outbreak total to 567, including 359 deaths.
The first reports of EVD in the region emerged in March, marking West Africa's first experience battling the virus in an outbreak that has become the largest and deadliest since the first human infections were detected in Africa in 1976. And today a major humanitarian group working in the region called the outbreak "out of control."
Detections surge in Sierra Leone
Of the 49 new illnesses, 39 were reported in Sierra Leone from Jun 15 to Jun 17. That country also reported 8 of the new deaths. Most cases were reported in Kailahun in the country's Eastern province, where most of the country's cases have occurred. Others were reported in Kenema and Western districts.
The new cases vault Sierra Leone's EVD total to 136 cases and 58 deaths. So far, 103 of the country's infections have been confirmed.
At Sierra Leone's EVD treatment center in Kenema, 31 patients are being treated, according to the WHO. Health officials are following 37 close contacts in Kailahun, and efforts are under way to train community health workers to do contact tracing and follow-up in other areas.
Guinea reports cases from two areas
In Guinea, where the outbreak began, 3 new EVD cases and 3 more deaths were reported from Jun 16 to Jun 18, boosting the country's total to 390 cases, 267 of them fatal. So far labs have confirmed 258 of the country's infections.
The new cases were in parts of Guinea that have already reported cases, including Gueckedou, Telimele, and Boffa. No new cases were reported from Conakry, Guinea's capital, which has also been one of the outbreak hot spots.
Currently, 16 patients are being treated for the disease in three different centers, and health workers are following 1,253 contacts, the WHO said.
Liberia's total grows by 7
Liberia's health ministry reported 7 new cases and 1 more death from Jun 16 to Jun 19, bringing its overall EVD totals to 41 cases and 25 deaths. So far 24 of the infections have been confirmed by lab tests.
The new cases were reported in Lofa, in the northern part of the country, and Montserrado in western Liberia near Monrovia.
Eight patients are being treated in centers in Lofa, the WHO said, and public health workers are following 108 close contacts, most of them from Lofa and Montserrado.
The WHO said its African region director has appointed a temporary WHO EVD outbreak coordinator to help the affected countries. The agency added that a meeting of health ministers in the area is scheduled for Jul 2 and Jul 3 in Accra, Ghana, with the goal of fostering increased commitment to and cross-border collaboration on EVD response activities.
'Out of control' epidemic
The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) said today in a news release that the West Africa Ebola outbreak requires "a massive deployment of resources" and warned that the organization has reached its limit in combatting the disease.
"The epidemic is out of control," said Bart Janssens, MD, MSF's director of operations. "With the appearance of new sites in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, there is a real risk of it spreading to other areas."
"We have reached our limits," he added. "Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites."
Jun 22 WHO update
Jun 23 MSF news release