16 Oct 2014

Ebola cases ‘set to exceed 9,000’ by end of week

The World Health Organisation says the number of Ebola cases should surpass 9,000 by the end of this week, as the British government continues to deport people to Ebola-affected countries.

Dr Isabelle Nuttall, director at the World Health Organisation (WHO), said: “This week we will cross 9,000 cases of Ebola and 4,500 deaths. The outbreak continues to hit health workers hard. So far 427 health care workers have been infected with Ebola and 236 have died.”

Dr Nuttall said that WHO data showed Ebola was still widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with transmission of the virus showing no signs of slowing down.

“It will take months before this outbreak is stopped. In the meantime we need to make sure it doesn’t spread to other countries,” Dr Nuttall said.

The Home Office confirmed to Channel 4 News that the British government is still deporting people to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In the three months leading up to June, Home Office figures show that 35 people were deported to Liberia, 54 people to Sierra Leone and 28 people to Guinea.

The Foreign Office advises “against all but essential travel” to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

It will take months before this outbreak is stopped. In the meantime we need to make sure it doesn’t spread to other countries. Dr Isabelle Nuttall, WHO

A Home Office spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “Enforced returns to countries affected by Ebola are only undertaken if it is judged safe to do so. We continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Meanwhile in the US, it has emerged that the second nurse from a Texas hospital to contract Ebola was allowed to board a flight from Cleveland to Dallas despite informing officials she was suffering from a fever.

The health worker, identified as 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, told a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official that she was running a temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Washington Post. The official did not stop Ms Vinson from boarding the Frontier Airlines flight to Dallas.

Ms Vinson has now been transferred to a hospital in Atlanta.

Protective gear

The CDC says the infection of the two Dallas nurses probably occurred in the first few days of them caring for dying Ebola patient Thomas Duncan. The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is investigating whether they correctly used personal protective gear such as gloves and gowns recommended by the agency.

On Wednesday, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said that Ms Vinson “should not have flown on a commercial airline” given the possibility she might have been exposed to Ebola. The CDC is trying to contact all 132 passengers on board the flight to determine if any of them require monitoring.

Six crew members have been placed on paid leave for 21 days “out of an abundance of caution,” Frontier Airlines said.

CDC officials will appear before a congressional committee on Thursday to answer question about the way they have responded to the Ebola crisis.

The news that Amber Joy Vinson boarded a flight saw shares in some of the biggest US airlines tumble between 5 and 8 per cent on Wednesday, which saw the worst day of trading on the Dow Jones in nearly three years.

Travel ban

Some Republicans are calling for drastic measures to stop Ebola potentially spreading in the US. House Speaker John Boehner urged the White House to consider banning travel from west African countries to the US.

“A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow,” said the Ohio Republican.

A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider. John Boehner

On Tuesday, National Nurses United (NNU), the largest US nurses’ union, released a statement condemning the procedures at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. The statement said that when Mr. Duncan was brought to the hospital under suspicion of having Ebola he “was left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present.

“No-one knew what the protocols were or were able to verify what kind of personal protective equipment should be worn and there was no training.”

‘No protocols’

The NNU said nurses who were in contact with Duncan were without proper protective gear. “Were protocols breached? The nurses say there were no protocols,” the statement read.

In Spain, Madrid’s Barajas international airport activated emergency measures on Thursday after a passenger arriving on an Air France flight was suspected of possible having Ebola. Reports from both the airline and the airport operator said that a passenger on the flight from Lagos via Paris had started shaking mid-flight. The plane will not be disinfected and the return flight has been cancelled.

At least 4,000 people are now known to have died from Ebola, according to the WHO, though experts estimate the actual number is higher. Liberia is the worst-affected country, followed by Sierra Leone and Guinea.