Late diagnostics among key factors of Ebola outbreak in W. Africa - Russian virologist

A delay in making a diagnosis for several months is among the key factors that have led to the major outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa and around the world, says Sergei Netesov, a deputy head of Novosibirsk State University, who had earlier worked for the Vector state virology and biotechnology research center for 30 years.

A delay in making a diagnosis for several months is among the key factors that have led to the major outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa and around the world, says Sergei Netesov, a deputy head of Novosibirsk State University, who had earlier worked for the Vector state virology and biotechnology research center for 30 years.

"As a matter of fact, it [the outbreak] started in December 2013. There has been a fatal string of mistakes in diagnostics: it took literally months to make diagnoses," Netesov said at the International Ecological Student Conference on Saturday.

"The outbreak occurred in a country where no hemorrhagic fevers had ever happened and where nobody knew the symptoms, and therefore no anti-epidemic measures had been taken," Netesov said.

The previous instances of Ebola had been recorded in central African states rather than in West Africa, where the climate is much drier, he said.

It took a lot of effort to reconstruct the chain that helped designate the first Ebola patient, as most of the people making up this chain had died by the time, Netesov said.

As a result, Ebola virus disease was diagnosed only in the second half of March 2014. The Guinean authorities announced its presence on March 25 and officially prohibited the eating of bat meat the next day, he said.

If not for the long delays in diagnostics, such a massive outbreak of the disease could have been avoided, Netesov said.

The outbreak occurred amid a dramatic decline in the financing of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014, and nearly all experts specializing in Ebola except two were laid off in the fall of 2013, Netesov said.

To prevent the further spread of Ebola, African states should take the most stringent measures possible, including ban the funeral rites traditional for these countries, during which the virus is easily transmitted, he said.

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