The Ebola epidemic in the countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in West Africa is raging out of control, devastating families, disrupting the economics, and threatening other parts of Africa and the world. The United Methodist Church has the most extensive infrastructure of medical facilities and health care personnel in this part of Africa. Our United Methodist Committee on Relief has been responding from the onset of this outbreak. But the needs are overwhelming and growing each day. Our Thanksgiving Offering will help sustain and expand UMCOR’s response. Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Resident Bishop, Minnesota-Dakotas Area
Most of the citizens in North and South Dakota are far removed from Ebola. Fear looms in the back of everyone’s mind about the potential of the disease reaching near. The greatest fear remains for the citizens of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One half of the 2014 Thanksgiving Appeal will be donated to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Photo: People in head-to-toe protective gear taking away dead bodies have become common in West Africa. Photo courtesy of United Methodist Council on Bishops.
How did it start?
The Ebola virus outbreak that’s ravaging West Africa probably started with a single infected person, a new genetic analysis shows. This West African variant can be traced genetically to a single introduction, perhaps a person infected by a bat, researchers report in the journal Science (Source: NBC News).
Ebola has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days. The virus is spread from person—to—person only through contact with bodily fluids. To contain the spread, basic practices of washing hands, wearing masks and protective clothing, and avoiding crowds help immensely.
The precaution of quarantine is one of the most practiced measures of prevention. If someone has has been espoxed to the Ebola virus, a twenty-one day quarantine is employed. This has been the case with three of the four cases that have been reported to date in the United States.
What is the impact?
CNN reports the number of cases and the numbers of deaths in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa already exceed the totals for all previous outbreaks combined. The first known Ebola outbreaks took place in 1976.
Photo: This is a photo that demonstrates the growth of Ebola virus cases from June 2014 to Spetember 2014 in West Africa. Photo illustration courtesy of UM Communications.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of October 27, 2014. WHO states these figures from the October 29 report may be underestimates.
Number of countries with cases: 8 (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, United States, Spain).
Number of cases as of Oct. 29: 13,703.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates the actual number of cases is 2.5 times the number of cases reported to the WHO.
About 22 per cent of the confirmed cases are 17 years old or younger, according to UNICEF.
Number of deaths as of Oct. 29: 4,920.
Number of deaths as a share of the number of total cases, West Africa: 49 percent.
Number of deaths as a share of the number of case patients with definitive outcomes: 71 percent.
The World Health Organization states that the epidemic would spread to as many as 20,000 people before it’s stopped. The numbers reported are just the people that doctors know about. Many have vanished into the forests, mistrustful of the medical system or afraid to go to hospitals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the highly contagious and deadly virus could infect 1.4 million by the end of January 2015.
Methodist outreach makes a difference
The United Methodist Church has nearly 300 medical facilities across Africa alone. The church effort involves treatment, prevention, communication and public education. The response is a joint effort by West African United Methodist church leaders and regional health boards, denominational health facilities, missionaries and the denomination's general agencies.
The United Methodist Church is reaching out beyond the current medical infrastructure. Guidelines for worship services have been established and distributed to clergy and church leaders in West Africa. A text messaging system provides ongoing messages of information and spiritual hope.
Temporary outreach centers are being established. To date, UMCOR and the Global Health unit have worked together to ensure that $400,000 of educational programs, protective equipment, and other Ebola-related supplies have been provided to the health boards in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire.
The need to do more is growing. Ebola continues to spread across the globe. Support the efforts of UMCOR’s outreach by giving to the 2014 Thanksgiving Appeal.
This video contributes to the prevention of the further spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. The video reflects the co-creators approach of creating non-coercive media for social change, in this case using animation to create a message of love to the living through an African spiritual voice. This video was produced by United Methodists Communications (umcom.org), Iheed (iheed.org) and Chocolate Moose Media (chocmoose.com).