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23 Sep, 2014 08:19

New Ebola strategy: Liberia to move patients out of homes into ‘care centers’

New Ebola strategy: Liberia to move patients out of homes into ‘care centers’

A fresh approach to the fight with the fatal Ebola virus has been revealed by Liberia, the World Health Organization and partners: infected people are set to be transferred to special centers with basic care.

The initiative is expected to be launched in the next few weeks, and is aimed at reducing the risk that the families of the patients will contract the deadly virus from their relatives.

The newly set-up “care centers,” as the authorities are calling them, would consist of 15 to 30 beds, with as many as 70 centers established across the country if the move is successful.

The move is regarded as controversial, as it represents a tacit admission that the operational hospital facilities for 1,700 Ebola patients pledged by the US and other western nations “are not coming fast enough,” Peter Graaf, the WHO’s country representative in Liberia, said Monday.

For instance, there are just over 380 hospital beds in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, a city with a population of 1.5 million people.

Home-based treatment has turned out to be problematic in overcrowded residential areas, officials said.

It comes as fear over the deadly epidemic is spreading in waves: the number of cases is doubling weekly, and for every infected patient, two more are contracting the disease, The Washington Post reported health officials as saying.

“We have to get to the point where every Ebola patient infects less than one [other person]. You have to get out of your house,” Graaf said.

However, Doctors Without Borders doubts the planned move will be successful.

“This is not going to work,” Brice de le Vigne, the group’s director of operations, told The Washington Post. “To move people in an epidemic is a big responsibility, and it requires huge logistical capabilities” that the affected countries simply don’t have, he said.

He added that the care facilities could turn into “contamination centers” unless infection control, trained staff and regular supervision are in place.

Almost 6,000 people in Africa have been infected with the virus, and over 2,800 people have already died, according to the latest WHO data. Liberia is the most affected, accounting for 50 percent of those infected in the outbreak, and over 1,500 deaths. Doctors Without Borders says these are conservative estimates, however.