Ibrahima Capi Camara’s phone at the Grand Hotel de L’Independence in Guinea’s capital hasn’t stopped ringing since an Ebola disease outbreak began last month, for all the wrong reasons.
“At least 80 percent of our reservations have been canceled,” said Camara, general manager of the 217-room hotel in the heart of Conakry. “Clients are scared to come because of Ebola.”
West Africa is fighting to contain the spread of the disease that has claimed the lives of 111 people in Guinea and Liberia, the worst outbreak in seven years, and kills as many as nine out of 10 people who contract it. There’s no cure or vaccine for the hemorrhagic fever that will probably continue to spread in the region for a few more months, according to the World Health Organization.
Measures such as closing borders and restricting travel “don’t make sense,” according to the WHO, which says avoiding close contact with patients will help contain the spread of the disease. That hasn’t stopped Senegal from shutting a border or Ivory Coast from barring buses from Liberia and Guinea. Rio de Janeiro-based Vale SA, the world’s biggest iron-ore producer, sent foreign workers in Guinea back to their homes last week.
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“The extreme fear it provokes in populations means that local and regional businesses are already seeing disruption to operations,” Charles Laurie, head of Africa research at Bath, England-based risk consultant Maplecroft, said in an e-mail. “Regional trade is at risk of grinding to a halt.”
Inadequate health care and a shortage of doctors make fighting the disease more difficult.
It’s the first time the disease, identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, has caused deaths in West Africa. The virus is transmitted to people through blood and other secretions of wild animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, bats and porcupines, according to the WHO. Humans pass the virus to each other through contact with blood and other body fluids. The disease causes high fever, diarrhea and vomiting, and can lead to internal bleeding.
Health officials in Guinea, Liberia and Senegal have appeared on national television to create awareness about the disease. Senegalese Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck visited ports and the main international airport to assess measures set up to screen incoming travelers, according to a statement from her office.
The French Embassy in Conakry has issued an advisory on its website against travel to the affected areas in the forest region.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has extensive information on the Ebola outbreak at cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/guinea/