To give you deeper insight into what’s happening in the Ebola outbreak, we’ve organized the latest developments in a curated weekly summary
West Africa Marks the First Week Without New Ebola Cases
For the first time since West Africa’s Ebola outbreak began, the world has marked the first week without any new recorded cases.
According to data released on Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO), zero cases were recorded in the week leading up to October 4.
“This is the first time that a complete epidemiological week has elapsed with zero confirmed cases since March 2014,” the WHO said in its latest situation report.
It added that all contacts have completed follow-up in Sierra Leone; no cases were recorded there in the past 3 weeks, meaning that the country is now more than halfway through the WHO’s stipulated 42-day period before being declared free of Ebola.
But as the BBC points out, several high-risk contacts linked to recent patients in Guinea and Sierra Leone are missing from follow-up. In Guinea, over 500 contacts remain on the contact list and 11 patients remain in Ebola treatment centers, according to the latest Inter-Agency Collaboration on Ebola report.
Study: Sharp Rise in Maternal and Infant Mortality During Sierra Leone’s Ebola Outbreak
The number of women dying during or after childbirth rose by 30 percent between May 2014 and April 2015 in Sierra Leone, according to a study by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in partnership with VSO International.
The study also found that neonatal deaths rose by almost a quarter compared to the previous year. There was an 18 percent decrease in women accessing antenatal care, it said, drawing on research from 76 health facilities around the country.
Sierra Leone already had one of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the world before the outbreak struck, further denting public confidence in the weak health system.
The study recommends “the implementation of nationwide, long-term health education programs to inform the public about vital antenatal and post-natal care visits and assisted childbirth as well as taking measures to increase public confidence by improving the capacity of health care facilities and better provision of safe, quality services.”
According to Peter Nderitu, VSO’s Sierra Leone country director, “this research shows that Sierra Leone’s health care system was still able to provide basic patient care throughout the Ebola crisis, but the real challenge was lack of public confidence in the safety of those services during that difficult time. Rebuilding public trust in health services is critical to improving maternal and newborn health.”
As Cases Fall, Stigma Still Lingers in Some Communities
The outbreak may be closer than ever to ending, but for Ebola survivors and those who lost relatives to the virus, stigma remains high.
As IRIN Africa reports, some Ebola orphans in Liberia still suffer from bullying and social exclusion. One 14-year-old boy told IRIN that he is dubbed the “Ebola orphan” and is left out of meals with former friends. “This makes me sad,” he said. “Many times they shun me and call me names.” Another orphan, aged 16, told IRIN that her relatives refuse to spend time with her, still fearing that she might spread the virus.
Fatou Wurie, a Sierra Leonean activist and the co-founder of the Survivor Dream Project, writes in the Huffington Post that mixed public messaging around the dangers of sexual transmission of Ebola has left many people confused.
“For the public, the message is not clear,” Wurie writes. “To accept survivors or to be cautious around survivors. Without clear scientific guiding evidence, the onus lies disproportionately on survivors to get it right at being safe and that is a heavy burden which the WHO alludes to as the ’emergency within the emergency.'”
A three-day survivors’ workshop in Kindia, Guinea, ended on Wednesday, also partly designed to address stigma. Guinea has 1,261 registered survivors of Ebola.
All Africa-8 October 2015