In the coming weeks, it is possible that U.S. residents who evacuated from West Africa in need of treatment for Ebola will be treated at Harborview Medical Center, just blocks from Seattle University.
Two months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to be a global emergency. Harborview’s announcement that it would take in victims of the virus in the event that it became necessary was part of a rapid increase in the international response to the virus in recent months.
There are no Ebola patients in Washington State at present. However, according to a press release from the hospital sent to the Seattle PI, “hospital and state and local health officials
According to that same press release, Harborview has proper safety protocol in place and “the public wouldn’t be in danger” of contracting the virus. Still, the national media has been in a frenzy covering the presence of the virus in the U.S. One fatal death has been reported on American soil thus far. Thomas Eric Duncan passed away last Wednesday at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, and a nurse at the hospital has also tested positive for the virus.
The U.S. pledged to provide 17 treatment centers with a capacity of 100 beds each in affected areas. The New York Times reported that the pledge will be carried out with the help of some 100 U.S. Marines who have been deployed to help ferry the supplies through congested streets in Monrovia, Liberia to designated treatment zones. The Marines join 300 others in Liberia, and the U.S. ground presence could rise to 700 troops by late October, depending on necessity.
The WHO asked the international community to increase the number of military personnel in the affected countries, given that it is the quickest way to set up treatment centers.
Last Friday, David Nabarro, the U.N. special envoy for Ebola, reported that the number of Ebola cases is probably doubling every three to four weeks and the effort given to the response needs to be 20 times what it was in early October.
In Liberia, one of the three countries hit hardest by the virus, lawmakers rejected a proposal by President Ellen Johnson Sirileaf on Friday. The proposal put forth by the Nobel Peace Prize winning president would have given her further power to restrict travel and public assemblies, and it would have given her the authority to appropriate property without further judicial process in order to combat Ebola.
According to the WHO, Liberia has recorded an estimated 2,316 deaths since the outbreak of the virus, the most of any country. On Aug. 6, President Sirileaf’s government declared a state of emergency. However, since then opponents have accused the president’s approach of being ineffective.
In Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, a quarantine sparked some unrest before it declared unhelpful and lifted. CNN reported that armed soldiers were sent in to keep the quarantine in place before it was raised.
Fear of the Ebola virus has caused problems outside of Liberia as well. After Senegal closed its border to travelers from the affected countries, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a press release criticizing border shutdown for being counterproductive in stopping the spread of Ebola.
According to the press release, “cross-border coordination and collaboration necessary to stem the spread of Ebola has been haphazard and chaotic. While closure of borders may provide short-term relief, it is not proving an effective way of controlling the virus and is also an impediment to cross-border technical support and humanitarian assistance, giving rise to new food security challenges.”
Ebola has a high mortality rate and is highly contagious, which makes finding volunteer doctors and nurses to run treatment centers difficult. Because the virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids of the infected, those treating the Ebola victims are at the highest risk for contracting it themselves. Due to the hesitation of international governments to send large amounts of aid to support the affected countries, the burden fell largely to non-governmental organizations like Doctors Without Borders, which has increased its numbers on the ground from 600 to 3,000 doctors and nurses since August.
Will may be reached at [email protected]