October 2014– LIBERIA – Earlier today, the Liberian government published a list of the supplies it has on hand to treat Ebola patients — and the supplies it thinks it will need. The data paints a dire picture of a country bracing for an outbreak that only gets worse. The Liberian government estimates it needs an additional 84,841 body bags. It currently has 4,901 on hand. The West African country also needs more than 2 million boxes of rubber gloves and a half-million pairs of goggles and tens of thousands more pairs of rubber boots. Right now, it has very little of any of these. Liberia has been harder hit by the Ebola outbreak than any other country. It has so far recorded 4,076 cases and 2,316 deaths. More than half of all Ebola deaths worldwide have happened in Liberia. The country is also poor, with few resources to fight the deadly outbreak. Even before Ebola hit, Liberia had one of the world’s poorest health care systems. Liberia spends an average of $66 per person per year on health care — a mere 2 percent of the OECD average. Supplies matter a lot in the Ebola outbreak. Without proper protective gear, it’s easier for the disease to spread — not just in Liberia, but also outside of the country, too. If you’re looking for ways to help ease the supply shortage, consider this list of non-profits currently providing aid in West Africa in the Ebola fight.
We have no idea how bad the Ebola outbreak actually is
While official estimates suggest there are already more than 8,000 cases of Ebola this year, the real number is likely much, much higher. “Under-reporting” has been a constant feature of the world’s worst Ebola epidemic. Cases have gone missing, deaths are uncounted, and “there is widespread under-reporting of new cases,” warns the World Health Organization. The WHO has continually said that even its current dire numbers don’t reflect the full reality. The estimated 8,000-plus Ebola cases in West Africa could just be the tip of the iceberg. To get to this point, Dr. David Fisman, an infectious disease modeler working on Ebola, summed up: “A person needs to have recognized symptoms, seek care, be correctly diagnosed, get lab testing — if they’re going to be a confirmed case — have the clerical and bureaucratic apparatus actually transmit that information to the people doing surveillance. At each step along the way the case can fall out of the pool of ‘counteds.” There’s no way to know how vastly under-reported this epidemic is, but there are estimates being floated around. Comparing surveillance figures with actual hospital beds dedicated to Ebola care in West Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that under-reporting could be happening at a rate of 2.5. This means that every one case reported equals 2.5 on the ground. If true, today’s 8,000 Ebola cases could actually look more like 20,000. –Vox