Ebola Viral Disease Outbreak — West Africa, 2014

Meredith G. Dixon, MD; Ilana J. Schafer, DVM


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2014;63(25):548-551. 

In This Article

Efforts to Control the Current Outbreak

To implement prevention and control measures in both Guinea and Liberia, ministries of health with assistance from Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Health Organization, and others, put in place Ebola treatment centers to provide better patient care and interrupt virus transmission. Teams from CDC traveled to Guinea and Liberia at the end of March as part of a response by the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to assist the respective ministries of health in characterizing and controlling the outbreak through collection of case reports, interviewing of patients and family members, coordination of contact tracing, and consolidation of data into centralized databases. Cases are categorized into one of three case definitions: suspected (alive or dead person with fever and at least three additional symptoms, or fever and a history of contact with a person with hemorrhagic fever or a dead or sick animal, or unexplained bleeding); probable (meets the suspected case definition and has an epidemiologic link to a confirmed or probable case); confirmed (suspected or probable case that also has laboratory confirmation).*

In late April, it appeared that the outbreak was slowing when Liberia did not report new cases for several weeks after April 9, and the number of new reported cases in Guinea decreased to nine for the week of April 27 (Figure 1). Since then, however, the EVD outbreak has resurged, with neighboring Sierra Leone reporting its first laboratory-confirmed case on May 24, Liberia reporting a new case on May 29 that originated in Sierra Leone, and Guinea reporting a new high of 38 cases for the week of May 25.

Figure 1.

Number of cases of Ebola viral disease (n = 398*), by week of symptom onset — Guinea, 2014
* Cases reported as of June 18, 2014.

As of June 18, the total EVD case count reported for all three countries combined was 528, including 364 laboratory-confirmed, 99 probable, and 65 suspected cases, with 337 deaths (case-fatality rate = 64%). Guinea had reported 398 cases (254 laboratory-confirmed, 88 probable, and 56 suspected) with 264 deaths (case-fatality rate = 66%) across nine districts (Figure 1). Sierra Leone had reported 97 cases (92 laboratory-confirmed, three probable, and two suspected) with 49 deaths (case-fatality rate = 51%) across five districts and the capital, Freetown. Liberia had reported 33 cases (18 confirmed, eight probable, and seven suspected) with 24 deaths (case-fatality rate = 73%) across four districts.

Major challenges faced by all partners in the efforts to control the outbreak include its wide geographic spread (Figure 2), weak health-care infrastructures, and community mistrust and resistance.[10] Retrospective case investigation has indicated that the first case of EVD might have occurred as early as December 2013 (Figure 1).[2] To control the outbreak, additional strategies such as involving community leaders in response efforts are needed to alleviate concerns of hesitant and fearful populations so that health-care workers can care for patients in treatment centers and thorough contact tracing can be performed. Enhancing communication across borders with respect to disease surveillance will assist in the control and prevention of more cases in this EVD outbreak.

Figure 2.

Location of cases of Ebola viral disease* — West Africa, 2014
* Cases reported as of June 18, 2014.

In June 2014, the World Health Organization, via the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, requested additional support from CDC and other partners, necessitating the deployment of additional staff members to Guinea and Sierra Leone to further coordinate efforts aimed at halting and preventing virus transmission. Persistence of the outbreak necessitates high-level, regional and international coordination to bolster response efforts among involved and neighboring nations and other response partners in order to expeditiously end this outbreak.

*Case definitions were modified from those available at https://who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/ebola-case-definition-contact-en.pdf.