Biggest Ever Weekly Rise in Ebola Cases
About 500 new infections reported across West Africa, including first case in Senegal
By HealthDay staff
FRIDAY, Aug. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The West African Ebola outbreak took a more deadly turn Friday with the World Health Organization announcing an estimated 500 new cases this week -- the biggest jump in infections so far.
Most of the new cases arose in Liberia, the U.N. health agency said, but cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone also rose sharply, the Associated Press reported.
"There are serious problems with case management and infection prevention and control," according to the WHO report. "The situation is worsening in Liberia and Sierra Leone."
Senegal -- a prime tourist destination in the region -- has also now recorded its first case, an infected university student from Guinea who sought treatment at a hospital in Senegal's capital city, Dakar, the AP reported.
According to Senegal's Health Minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck, the young man had had contact with Ebola patients in Guinea and has now been placed under quarantine. Tests have confirmed he is infected with Ebola virus, the AP said.
The news follows a WHO update released on Thursday that warned that the deadly Ebola outbreak hitting five West African nations could eventually infect more than 20,000 people.
Already the largest Ebola outbreak ever, the viral infection has produced 3,069 cases so far and killed 1,552 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with Senegal now added to that list.
Nearly 40 percent of the total number of reported cases have occurred in the past three weeks, the health agency said.
"This far outstrips any historic Ebola outbreak in numbers. The largest outbreak in the past was about 400 cases," Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO's assistant director-general for emergency operations, said at a news conference, the AP reported.
In the meantime, many American universities say they plan to run extra health checks on college students arriving from the affected region.
According to the AP, about 30 students from Nigeria are expected to arrive this semester at the University of Illinois. According to Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the university's health center, the Nigerian students will be asked to undergo a temperature check for signs of fever and to have a private discussion about Ebola when they arrive at the university health center for required immunization paperwork and tuberculosis testing.
Health experts stress that the threat to U.S. college students remains very small, but Palinkas told the AP that the added precautions should reassure parents.
"Parents are comforted to know that there is a screening process, that we are alert for it, that we are prepared for it," he said, "and that we're doing everything we can without infringing on the rights of anybody to make sure their son or daughter is going to have the lowest risk possible."