‘Perfect storm’ for Ebola to spread

Comment on this story
iol scitech aug 29 Peter Piot AFP Professor Peter Piot, the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, speaks during an interview at his office in central London, England.

Paris - Peter Piot, the Belgian scientist who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, said a “perfect storm” in West Africa had given the disease a chance to spread unchecked.

“We have never seen an (Ebola) epidemic on this scale,” Piot was quoted by the French daily Liberation as saying.

“In the last six months, we have been witnessing what can be described as a 'perfect storm' - everything is there for it to snowball.”

The epidemic “is exploding in countries where health services are not functioning, ravaged by decades of civil war,” Piot said.

“In addition, the public is deeply suspicious of the authorities. Trust must be restored. Nothing can be done in an epidemic like Ebola if there is no trust.”

Piot is former chief of the UN agency UNAIDS and now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the world's foremost centres of expertise on tropical disease.

In the interview, he also castigated “the extraordinary slowness” of international organisations in responding to the outbreak.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) only woke up in July,” whereas the epidemic began in December last year and health experts sounded the alarm in early March, said Piot.

“There is now leadership but it is late,” he said.

The epidemic has killed 1 427 people out of more than 2 600 known cases of infection, with doctors and nurses paying a particularly heavy price.

The epidemic is focussed on Liberia and Sierra Leone, which were wracked by conflict in the 1990s and the early part of the last decade, and on neighbouring Guinea.

Other cases have been recorded in Nigeria, whose north is hit by unrest, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose east is in the grip of a decades-old conflict and where Ebola was first identified in 1976.

DRC Health Minister Felix Kabanga Numbi last Sunday said that the country's seventh recorded Ebola outbreak had “no link to (the epidemic) in west Africa”. - Sapa-AFP

Hungry for more scitech news? Sign up for our daily newsletter



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.