Switzerland has pledged an additional CHF5 million ($5.3 million) to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa, bringing its donation total to CHF9 million. Swiss President Didier Burkhalter announced the donation at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Switzerland is focusing its aid efforts on the containment of the epidemic through treatment and prevention, strengthening the health system and reducing the negative secondary effects such as food insecurity. These areas of focus were identified earlier this month during a joint mission to Liberia of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid organisation and the Geneva University Hospital.
The number of infections in the Ebola epidemic in Africa could more than triple by November, to more than 20,000 people, according to predictions in a study published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization, which co-authored the study with the Imperial College in London, warned that new infections could increase from hundreds to thousands per week if nothing more is done to help.
The study’s authors reported that the death rate from the current epidemic in West Africa is much higher than in the past: around 70% of infected people, compared with 50% previously.
In the five affected countries – Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal – 5,864 people have been infected since March 2014 and 2811 have died.
In Nigeria and Senegal the epidemic is considered under control, whereas in the other three countries only a fraction of the needed healthcare personnel and hospital beds are available, said Antonio Vigilante, the head of the United Nations development programme in Liberia.
Sierra Leone’s army has “sealed off” the borders with Liberia and Guinea in a bid to halt the spread of Ebola, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Federal Office of Public Health said tests on the first suspected case of Ebola in Switzerland had come back negative and the man did not have the virus, although the tests would be repeated to be sure.
The man, who had left Guinea for France on September 15 and arrived in Switzerland on September 17, had been quarantined in a hospital in canton Vaud following his arrival, after he told officials at the asylum centre that a member of his family had died of Ebola.
In his first week in Lausanne University Hospital he showed no symptoms and was thus not contagious, according to the health office. One week after arrival he developed a fever and was transferred to Lausanne according to the criteria set out by the health office.
On Monday, an international health worker bitten by an infected patient in Sierra Leone was flown to Geneva University Hospital for observation.