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Virologist: Chance Lost to Stop Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia

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The fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the countries worst hit by the recent epidemic, is lost, Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, virologist from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, told Deutsche Welle.

MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – The fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two of the countries worst hit by the recent epidemic, is lost, Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, virologist from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, told Deutsche Welle.

"The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed," he said. That time was May and June. "Now it is too late."

He believes that the virus will "burn itself out" in these countries where half of the population – about 5 million people – could die.
However, Schmidt-Chanasit insists that massive international help must continue, though for Sierra Leone and Liberia, it is hardly possible to bring enough help to curb the epidemic.

The virologist thinks that the most important thing now is to "prevent the virus from spreading to other countries" and to bring possible help to such countries as Nigeria and Senegal, for example.

German non-governmental aid organization Welthungerhilfe strictly opposed Schmidt-Chanasit’s statement and called it "not very constructive".

Jochen Moninger, Sierra Leone based coordinator of Welthungerhilfe, told Deutsche Welle, the statement is "dangerous and moreover, not correct."

"The measures are beginning to show progress," he says. "The problem is solvable - the disease can be stemmed."

Moninger has been living in Sierra Leone for four years and has witnessed the Ebola outbreak there from the very beginning.

"If I had lost hope completely, I would pack my things and take my family out of here", Moninger adds. Despite the epidemic, he and his family will stay in the country.

In Sierra Leone authorities have declared a 21 day quarantine for every household in which Ebola is detected. Affected houses are to be guarded by police and soldiers and anyone who comes in contact with an Ebola patient will be quarantined as well.

The Liberian government has not taken the same quarantine measures as Sierra Leone. According to World Health Organization (WHO), sick people are crisscrossing the capital and looking for treatment facilities. Still, Moninger stresses that "distributing hopelessness is dangerous", because there are a lot of people who could die  and statements like these only aggravates the situation.

The WHO in Geneva refuses to comment on Schmidt-Chanasit's statement. WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib says that there is still chance to help both countries. "We can bring the situation under control in 6 to 9 months," she told Deutsche Welle.

She says that the situation is "very intense", especially in Liberia. Liberia has the highest number of cases and deaths in West Africa with a 60-percent case-fatality rate. Moreover, 80 health workers and doctors have died from the disease. According to WHO, there will be thousands of new cases of Ebola in Liberia over the next few weeks.

Chaib thinks that Europe and US have to support the fight against Ebola in West Africa. The only ways to get a grip on the epidemic is to stop the transmission, she says. So she proposes to create Ebola centers in the communities that will prevent sick people and their family members from walking around and spreading the infection.

Tags:
epidemic, virus, Ebola virus disease (EVD), World Health Organization (WHO), West Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia
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