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Health

Kasolo: 'We must help communities understand Ebola'

A second wave of Ebola has hit West African states, with a rising death toll. Dr. Francis Kasolo from the World Health Organization told DW about the need to raise awareness and importance of an early diagnosis.

DW: The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has hit 377 since February according to World Helath Organization (WHO) figures. Do these figures mean that Ebola is getting out of control in West Africa?

From when the first cases were reported March 21, 2014 in Guinea up to the first week of June, we had seen a decline in the number of cases due to the measures that had been put into place. However, over the last two weeks, particularly in Guinea, there has been an acceleration in the transmission. So for Guinea, it really is rising numbers , whereas for Sierra Leone and Liberia, these are new epidemics that have occurred.

What should the chief priority for West African governments be if they want to contain this epidemic?

I think the first thing is the involvement of the communities in understanding the ways in which Ebola is transmitted. At the central level, there is great appreciation of the problem but at the community level and in the rural areas there is a gap in the appreciation that Ebola is a serious illness. So I think we need to begin by mobilizing our communities in understanding that Ebola is a serious problem but also letting them understand ways and means of preventing Ebola. For instance, simple hand-washing and also changing of cultural behaviors that entail close contact with the sick or the dead.

There is no vaccine and no known cure for Ebola. Is that likely to change in the foreseeable future?

Well, the work continues on understanding the Ebola as a disease and also on developing possible treatment and vaccination modalities but this will take some time. I don't think we'll wake up one day and find it in the next few years. Having said that, the supportive care that is given to those that have Ebola, especially if they come to the health facility early enough, seems to be improving the outlook of those infected with Ebola. So, basic rehydration and the provision of fluid are mitigating the mortality due to Ebola in the countries that are currently affected.

What advice is the WHO giving to prospective visitors to the country?

WHO is not issuing any travel restrictions to these countries. We think that the situation can be controlled with the measures that are being vigorously implemented.

Dr Francis Kasolo is the director for disease prevention and control at the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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