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German virologist says world has lost Sierra Leone and Liberia to Ebola; should focus on containing disease


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(NaturalNews) A prominent doctor from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, says the window has officially closed on containing the Ebola outbreak, apart from massive international assistance. Sierra Leone and Liberia, the two hardest-hit countries, have likely already been lost to the disease, claims Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit and other nearby countries could be next if appropriate aid isn't delivered immediately.

Speaking to Germany's Deutsche Welle (DW), Schmidt-Chanasit anticipates a regional pandemic in West Africa, one that could very well infect nearly everybody with Ebola, killing many of them in the process. At this point, there is really no way to stop the spread of Ebola in some of the afflicted countries, and containing it elsewhere is going to be monumentally difficult, he says.

"The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed," stated Schmidt-Chanasit to DW, noting that May or June, at the latest, would have been the cutoff time for possible containment. "Now it will be much more difficult."

Nigeria and Senegal can still be saved, says doctor

It may still be possible to halt Ebola in nearby Nigeria and Senegal, says Schmidt-Chanasit. But this can only happen if the international community steps up to the plate to provide more hospital beds, equipment, and personnel to deal with the constant influx of new patients. These resources will also be crucial in preventing infected individuals from spreading Ebola within their communities.

Jochen Moninger, a Sierra Leone-based coordinator for the German humanitarian aid group Welthungerhilfe (World Hunger Aid), sees things a little more brightly. In his view, containment measures already taking place in Sierra Leone are working, slowly but surely. And with enough time, they will be able to fully eradicate the disease.

"The measures are beginning to show progress," he told DW. "The problem is solvable - the disease can be stemmed."

Aid groups call on national governments to use military force to keep quarantines

One of these measures involves quarantining entire households where Ebola has turned up, typically for 21 days. If people don't cooperate, Moninger believes military force is justifiable to prevent the disease from spreading.

"If I had lost hope completely, I would pack my things and take my family out of here," added Moninger. "Distributing hopelessness is dangerous, [and] statements like these make the situation even worse," referring here to Schmidt-Chanasit's declaration that the fight is over.

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, claims that all afflicted countries still have hope. The United Nations arm says it will likely have the entire situation under control in as little as six months, though the extreme situation in Liberia may not be included in this.

Western nations need to bring aid, vaccines to ailing west Africa

The United States has already promised to contribute about three-quarters of a million dollars over the next six months to fight Ebola. Much of this will be used to pay the roughly 3,000 military personnel that the U.S. plans to send over to help maintain order and deliver needed supplies.

The Pentagon is also planning to send engineers to West Africa to help set up at least 17 new treatment centers. Each of the centers will be outfitted with at least 100 beds, and a dedicated staff specifically trained in dealing with Ebola will be placed at each facility.

But these efforts may not work.

"The problem is, for every single thing we're doing, we're racing against the virus, and the virus has the high ground right now," says Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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