86 people have now died in the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea. The disease has also been reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and now Mali is added to the list after three suspected cases were hospitalized. The government in Mali has reacted quickly and there are tight controls on people entering the capital city Bamako, which is the largest population centre in the country. They are using thermal imaging cameras which they hope will assist them in identifying people with a high temperature and/or fever.
Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for Muslim pilgrims from Guinea and Liberia and is expected to follow suit with other countries that confirm cases. Late last week Senegal closed its border with Guinea in the hope of halting the spread of disease.
International flights are still operating to all four of the countries and there is no sign of that stopping at this point.
If Ebola does escape Africa it’s likely it will be introduced by a visitor to the affected area returning home. The thought is terrifying. Ebola is spread through direct contact with infected food or by contact with an infected person or their body fluids. This includes sweat, blood faeces and urine that gets into a person via cuts and grazes or by coming into contact with mucous membranes. Semen in those that survive the disease can still be infected up to eight weeks after all other symptoms have ceased. Soiled towels and bedding and contact with infected corpses can also spread the disease.
The geographical spread of this outbreak is unusual. It usually confines itself to small remote areas. Whilst being devastating to those who suffer from it outbreaks are usually self-contained and die out quickly due to the geographical isolation of the victims.
The fact that it has crossed borders and made it to highly populated cities gives grave cause for concern.