Help sought

PARIS – Health experts from 16 European countries have beseeched their governments to massively scale up manpower and resources to fight west Africa’s Ebola epidemic, now threatening “the entire world”.

European countries should urgently send trained medical staff, field laboratories, protective clothing, disinfectants and basic tools like electricity generators, the 44 public health professionals and academics wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

“After months of inaction and neglect from the international community, the Ebola epidemic in west Africa has now spiralled utterly out of control,” said their open letter.

“Today, the virus is a threat not only to the countries where the outbreak has overwhelmed the capacity of national health systems, but also to the entire world.

“We urge our governments to mobilise all possible resources to assist west Africa in dealing with this horrific epidemic.”

The deadliest Ebola epidemic has infected more than 6200 people in west Africa and killed nearly half of them since late last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus can kill within days, causing high fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and in some cases unstoppable bleeding.

The experts from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK listed several possible interventions.

“… We urge European governments to create mechanisms that allow professionals working in public health-care systems to volunteer for temporary leave (with hazard pay) to contribute to the epidemic control efforts in the region,” they wrote.

There was also an urgent need for surveillance and diagnostic equipment, mobile communications technology, clean water and fuel, and protective equipment for health care providers — soap, chlorine, clothing and masks.