The Centers for Disease Control this week said that if the Ebola virus continues to spread at its current rate, as many 1.4 million people could be infected with the virus by late January. The present count is just over 5,800 cases in West Africa with more than 2,800 deaths, but the number could be much higher since many cases are not reported, according to healthcare officials.
“The doubling rate is every three weeks,” says Dr. Jim Yong Kim, an infectious disease specialist who now heads the World Bank. He told Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview that a continued slow response to Ebola could be catastrophic. “We just cannot let that happen.”
What is needed immediately, says Kim, is a “response on the ground” including the delivery of hospital beds in cities and IV fluids and electrolytes in rural areas. “If we do that, we’ll get this under control.”
The World Bank last month pledged $230 million in emergency aid to fight the spread of Ebola as well as funds to strengthen health care systems long term. The United Nations says it will require nearly $1 billion to bring the Ebola disease outbreak in West Africa under control.
Countries around the world are now sending medical workers, supplies and funds to help in that effort. The U.S. has pledged to send 3,000 troops as well as medical kits and other supplies. It's also helping in the construction of new clinics and hospitals. An experimental vaccine is now being tested in the U.K., and will be fast-tracked to send into West Africa.
These responses have Kim less worried about the spread of Ebola beyond Africa, though he stresses more needs to be done in West Africa.
As for the U.S., Kim is not worried that Ebola will spread here because, “Ebola has never actually met directly a modern health care system… In every major emergency room in the United States, we assume that everyone has Ebola unless proven otherwise. That’s why we glove all the time; if someone has an open wound or fluids are flying we put facemasks on. We take precautions."
He adds, if such precautions were standard operating procedure in Africa, the death rate there would be much lower. That’s why, in addition to responding to the immediate problem of Ebola in West Africa, Western countries need “to build those [health care] systems so that they can manage these kinds of outbreaks in the future," says Kim.
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