2014 Ebola Outbreak: ‘Out of control… and Can Get Worse'; Asky Airline Stops Flying to Liberia, Sierra Leone; Liberia Closes Schools

By @ibtimesau on
Workers from Doctors Without Borders unload emergency medical supplies to deal with Ebola
Workers from Doctors Without Borders unload emergency medical supplies to deal with an Ebola outbreak in Conakry, Guinea, March 23, 2014. Reuters

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered the closure of all schools in Liberia amid the deepening Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has been categorised as "out of control" by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). West African ASKY airline had announced it is stopping all flights bound for Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Apart from schools, Ms Sirleaf likewise ordered the closure of markets near the borders of infected countries Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"My fellow Liberians, Ebola is real, Ebola is contagious and Ebola kills," the AP quoted the Liberian president. "Denying that the disease exists is not doing your part, so keep yourselves and your loved ones safe."

The pronouncement followed after airliner ASKY flew without knowing it had an infected American male passenger of Liberian descent. The man boarded a plane in Monrovia and then flew to Nigeria, where he died of Ebola.

Fears are mounting around the world that this particular flight may have passed on the Ebola virus to the other passengers, and only time knows when it would particularly manifest in the major economic strongholds of the globe.

For its part, ASKY had suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"ASKY took this precautionary measure to ensure the safety of all: its passengers, staff and people of all countries covered by our network," Afoussath Traore, a spokesman for the company, said.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned the deadly west African Ebola virus has gotten out of control and "can only get worse."

"This epidemic is unprecedented, absolutely out of control and the situation can only get worse, because it is still spreading, above all in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in some very important hotspots," Bart Janssens, MSF's director of operations, told La Libre Belgique newspaper. "If the situation does not improve fairly quickly, there is a real risk of new countries being affected."

In the UK, tests for Ebola have been run on a man in Birmingham after his arrival. He came from Nigeria via Paris. His entry prompted the British authorities to call for a crisis meeting.

Read: Ebola Doom: UK Panics, Holds Crisis Mtng; Expert African Doctor Dies

The virus is very much susceptible to be carried airborne and across international borders by air travellers.

According to portal qz.com, flights out of the Ebola affected countries arrive in 39 airports in 35 other countries around the world, including

  • Seven in Europe, in the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands
  • Four in the Middle East
  • Three in the US (Houston, Atlanta and New York).

"Until now [the virus] had not impacted commercial aviation, but now we're affected," the Guardian quoted Raymond Benjamin, International Civil Aviation Organisation secretary general, said.

"We will have to act quickly. We will consult with the WHO [World Health Organisation] to see what types of measures should be put in place."

An unidentified source representing the EU told News Limited that while they cannot rule out the possibility that an infected person arrives in Europe, "the EU has the means to track and contain any outbreak rapidly."

Read: Ebola Virus on the Loose: World Cautioned as Infection Moves; Global Airports on High Alert; Kills Liberian Doctor, Infects American Worker

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