Death Toll in West Africa's Ebola Outbreak Passes 10,000

Posted on March 12, 2015

Make-shirt Ebola treatment rooms in Guinea

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has passed the 10,000 mark. The total number of cases is 24,385 and the number of deaths is 10,019. The outbreak is the largest in history by far. Previous Ebola outbreaks had only hundreds of cases.

The photograph was taken last year by Dr. Heidi Soeters from the CDC. It shows make-shift Ebola treatment rooms in Guinea. A worker is marking the entranceway to the treatment rooms with a yellow warning stripe. The handwashing stations contain chlorinated water.

The number of new cases per day in West Africa has fallen from its peak but the outbreak continues to simmer. Experts in the region have been unable to completely stop the spread of Ebola. Part of the problem is there are remote villages that are hard to reach. There are also still local customs in some regions where villagers want to wash the bodies of the dead. This is a particularly bad idea with Ebola because the disease is at its highest viral peak in a recently deceased body.

Ebola remains in three countries in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Sierra Leone and Guinea are considered to have the most hot spots and are adding the most new Ebola cases each week. Guinea's cases climbed from 3,285 to 3,330 from March 8 to March 10 and Sierra Leone's cases climbed from 11,619 to 11,677 from March 8 to March 10 according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. Liberia hasn't reported cases since March 5, but it has been adding cases at a slower rate than Guinea and Sierra Leone. Even if Liberia gets is cases down to zero it will still be constantly under threat of imported cases as it shares borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Health workers in the region continue to be at risk of contracting Ebola even when following strict protocols. Recently, a British military healthcare worker and an American health care worker contracted the virus in Sierra Leone. The British worker was flown to Royal Free Hospital in London and the U.S. worker will be transported to NIH Clinical Center Special Clinical Studies Unit in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH unit is a high-level containment facility where Ebola patients have been treated in recent months. Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola, was treated and cured at the NIH facility.

Photo: Dr. Heidi Soeters