Guest post by Kristinn Taylor
Health workers are at serious risk of contracting Ebola, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids [EPA]
The Obama administration is hosting a major summit the first week of August with leaders of African nations in Washington, D.C. as the Ebola outbreak in Africa is spinning out of control. This week Washington is playing host to young African leaders.
As the meetings were set to begin, the Ebola outbreak stunned experts this past week by killing a man who flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria, with a layover on Togo, without his condition being detected. The AP reported:
“The fact that the traveler from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact Ebola’s symptoms are similar to other diseases.
“Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man’s flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country.
“Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease, but it is no guarantee Ebola won’t travel by airplane, according to Dr. Lance Plyler, who heads Ebola medical efforts in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.
“”Unfortunately the initial signs of Ebola imitate other diseases, like malaria or typhoid,” he said.”
The Ebola victim, 40 year-old Patrick Sawyer, was a consultant to Liberia’s Ministry of Finance—just the kind of professional person who might be attending the summit in Washington.
According to the AP report diagnosis of those infected with Ebola but not showing symptoms is not easy:
“Doctors say health screens could be effective, but Ebola has a variable incubation period of between two and 21 days and cannot be diagnosed on the spot.”
The leaders of fifty African nations, from Egypt in the north to South Africa in the south have been invited to the summit by President Obama which was announced back in January. Included in the invited countries are those affected by the Ebola outbreak: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Over 1200 people have been infected by the Ebola virus with nearly 700 of those having succumbed to the virus so far. Citing WHO, the BBC reports 100 health workers have contracted the virus in the current outbreak with half of them dying. Two Americans with Samaritan’s Purse have recently come down with the virus in Liberia.
— BBC Africa (@BBCAfrica) July 28, 2014
A press release by Washington’s Metropolitan Police on street closures for the summit shows that large swaths of the District including Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, the Maine Avenue waterfront and areas around the White House will be affected by the summit.
One can imagine what is going through the minds of officials at the CDC, Secret Service and Homeland Security. While the odds are low, with the Africa based virus now being transported by international plane travel the summit has the potential to become a real life Outbreak movie or 24 episode.