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Combating Ebola in West Africa: How to Help (Updated)

By • Sep 3rd, 2014

UPDATE (09/03/14):As of Wednesday more than 3,500 cases have now been reported, with more than 1,500 deaths confirmed, in what is the largest and most complex outbreak of Ebola since the the disease was first discovered in 1979. The epidemic has also spread to Nigeria, Senegal and The Congo in addition to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Relief efforts become increasingly urgent as the outbreak continues to spread across West Africa. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 12,000 local trained and protected health care workers, and 750 international infectious disease specialists are needed to stem this outbreak. Read the full WHO forecast here.

08/04/14
In 1995, a virulent strain of the Ebola virus hit Kikwit, Zaire (now The Congo), a city of 600,000 about 250 miles east of capital city Kinshasa.

Thought to have been first contracted in a remote area by a farmer, the disease spread inside Kikwit General Hospital and rapidly killed patients, family members and many hospital workers who lacked adequate anti-infectious disease training and supplies. So deadly was this strain of Ebola and so quickly did it kill those infected (of 316 patients, 245 or 78% died), that it essentially “burned itself out” before it could spread further. Operation USA responded to that crisis with a cargo plane full of protective or “barrier” gear (masks, gloves, gowns, protective shoes) and hygiene supplies to clean the hospital in the wake of the epidemic.

The current Ebola outbreak has affected several West African countries with death rates between 60-90%. Inadequately protected health workers are reportedly fleeing hospitals as Ebola sufferers appear for treatment. Villages, fearing the virus is being spread by foreign health workers, have reportedly attacked clinics and are demanding that foreign medical teams leave the area. Fear is quickly escalating because Ebola has appeared in capital cities in West Africa for the first time, and travelers flying in and out of regional airports have also been affected.

“What If Ebola Struck Here?” stories are appearing in the international media, stemming widespread fear on a global scale, while governments and international groups hold emergency meetings to address the possibility of a broader outbreak.

The infrequency of Ebola and other hemorrhagic virus outbreaks (Marberg, Lassa Fever, Hemorrhagic Dengue, Chikengunya, etc.) has not galvanized private sector companies to invest in seeking a cure for the virus or any means of ameliorating its effects. Government labs and the World Health Organization have taken the lead in responding to Ebola outbreaks, but are woefully lacking in material resources like protective gear and hygiene supplies beyond the needs of their own field teams.

So, what can we do to help? Operation USA has the potential to respond to this crisis by again sending protective gear and hygiene supplies to affected areas. To do this we need the help of corporate partners, providing bulk donations of these much-needed supplies, and from the public, providing funds to support shipments into the affected areas.

For more information on in-kind donations, please contact us at info@opusa.org or call our supply warehouse at 310-835-8892. To make a donation in support of relief efforts, click here now and select “Emergency Response – Africa” from the restrictions menu. Donations can also be made via text message: text AID to 50555 to donate $10. Text donations are collected for the benefit of Operation USA by the mGive Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.mGive.org/t.