Health ministers from 11 African countries are meeting in Accra today to hold emergency talks about the Ebola outbreak in the region, which is the world’s most deadly so far.
The meeting, convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), will focus on measures to stamp out the virus and stop it spreading to other countries in the region.
So far, 763 people have been infected with the virus – and 468 of these have died. Most of the cases have been in Guinea where the outbreak started. But it has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
WHO says “drastic” action is now needed.
“We’re hoping to take decisions about how to enhance collaboration and responses (of these countries) so we can get a grip and halt this outbreak,” said WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein.
“We need a strong response, especially along the shared border areas where commercial and social activities continue between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That’s unlikely to stop.”
The concerns about the spread of the virus center around the free movement of people within the region, sick people not being taken to the isolation centers, and families hiding sick relatives and bodies to avoid stigmatization by their communities. Public health workers have also urged government to work closely with communities on building awareness about the disease.
Countries participating at today’s meeting are: Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, and Uganda.
There is no known cure for Ebola.
Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus with a fever, throat and muscle pains, and headaches. This is followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. At this point, some people begin to have problems with bleeding.
How to avoid contracting Ebola
You can get Ebola by coming into contact with the blood or body fluids of an animal or person who is infected.
People often get sick with Ebola when they care for or bury a person who has the disease. You can also catch the virus by touching contaminated needles or surfaces.