Ebola Outbreak Will End By August, UN Official Says

The Ebola virus has killed more than 10,000 people since the outbreak began in West Africa in late December 2013, but what once had no end in sight may not be so threatening much longer. According to BBC News, health officials believe the current Ebola outbreak will end in August 2015. By that time, the outbreak would have been ongoing for about 20 months, making it the longest — and deadliest — outbreak in the disease's history.

In an interview with BBC News, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the United Nations Ebola response mission, said the agency expected the outbreak to be over by the end of August. "We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer," Ahmed told the BBC.

The UN official added that the international body responded "arrogantly" at times during the vast outbreak. His words echo those of World Health Organization officials, who have placed some of the blame on themselves for not responding to the Ebola crisis as quickly as they should have. "The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said at a meeting earlier this year, BBC News reports.

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According to WHO numbers, there have been nearly 15,000 reported Ebola cases, most of which have been concentrated in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Those three countries have had a combined 14,646 reported cases and 10,236 deaths.

Several other countries, from Nigeria to the United States, have been marginally affected by the Ebola virus. The African nations of Nigeria and Mali have had a handful of Ebola cases each, with eight deaths reported in Nigeria and six in Mali. The United States has also had two people die from Ebola on U.S. soil — Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who also became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in America, and Sierra Leonean-American Dr. Martin Salia. Salia was diagnosed with Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Earlier in 2015, the WHO wrote in a Global Alert and Response report that the health agency has revised its rapid response to Ebola, which it will now use going forward. The response focuses on community outreach, including ways to lesson resistance from local communities in order to prevent transmission of the disease. The WHO also said that "contact tracing is considered the weakest of all control measures."

As the health agency moves forward to bring the Ebola outbreak down to zero in 2015, the WHO stressed, "Innovation needs to be encouraged, publicized, tested and funnelled into control strategies whenever appropriate."

The WHO added:

The pattern of transmission seen throughout 2014 makes a final conclusion obvious: cross-border coordination is essential. Given West Africa’s exceptionally mobile populations, no country can get cases down to zero as long as transmission is ongoing in its neighbours.

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