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Containing Ebola: what you need to know, now

As the deadly Ebola virus continues to take hold across Western Africa, claiming more lives, the call for increased aid and preventative action grows. Recently, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international public health emergency and demanded an “extraordinary” response.

Plan is responding to this call, intensifying emergency efforts through further educational campaigns and the provision of critical resources. Since awareness is the key to prevention, it is crucial that important public health information be clearly communicated to individuals in Western Africa, and abroad. Once the implications of this deadly disease are understood, people can effectively protect themselves, and others, from infection.

Q: What is Ebola?

A: Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases known to humankind. It is contracted through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids and is even contagious after the death of an affected individual.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Initial symptoms are the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Such common symptoms often make it difficult to detect Ebola.

Q: Can Ebola be treated?

A: There is no vaccine or cure for the disease, which can kill up to 90 per cent of those infected. Though there have been some experimental health treatments executed and rehydration can support recovery in some instances, prevention is the best way to protect oneself.

Q: What countries has Ebola affected?

A: The deadly disease has killed close to 7,000 people so far in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria have declared the Ebola crisis as national emergencies. Seven additional West African countries (Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger) are also on alert. This is the worst outbreak of Ebola in history and it continues to escalate.

Q: Have Plan-sponsored children been affected by the Ebola crisis?

A: Plan staff are currently focusing on protective and relief measures, and are unable to provide news on individual sponsored children at this time. Please continue to visit this website for updates on the situation in Plan-affiliated communities.

Q: What factors are placing individuals at risk?

A: Poor sanitation and misinformation, along with a general lack of awareness and health resources have contributed to the spread of Ebola. The affected countries are among the poorest in the world. The populations have little access to communication technologies and many are illiterate. The fragile or non-existent public health systems in these countries are ill-equipped to reach the most vulnerable people with the most urgent prevention messages.

An infographic detailing how to avoid contracting Ebola.

With Plan’s support, community leaders conduct information sessions and educational activities on Ebola detection and prevention.

Q: What is Plan doing to help?

A: Plan has been on the ground in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leones responding to the emergency for months. We are working in conjunction with local governments and partners to support existing efforts and devise new methods for containing the spread of the disease.

Calming the fear and anxiety of those living in affected and surrounding regions by empowering them with the vital information and tools they need to protect themselves, and their families, remains a top priority. As trusted partners who have worked in these communities for decades, we are uniquely positioned to do just this. So far, Plan’s efforts to combat the disease include:

  • Community awareness sessions and radio campaigns on how to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus
  • Training health workers in effective infection control procedures, including the proper use of protective equipment and the isolation of those exposed
  • Setting-up hand washing stations at schools, health posts and other public facilities to help families maintain a level of basic hygiene that will help keep them safe
  • Providing health workers with financial support for health and sanitation resources, as well as important supplies like food, fuel, and disinfectant.
A boy in a red shirt washes his hands with a Plan bin

Plan has provided hand washing bins to communities throughout Western Africa.