Ebola SMS system to be launched in more countries in West Africa

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The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a severe and usually fatal disease transmitted by wild animals and humans. The Ebola virus outbreak in Africa has caused a stir globally, understably so. Even with the severity of this deadly disease, a large number of people are still not clear about this virus. In Sierra Leona an SMS system has been used to send out over 2 million messages per month to inform people about the virus. This short message system will now be introduced in more West African countries namely; Benin, Togo, Ghana, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Burkina Faso

According to the BBC, the Tera SMS text system was developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Trilogy International Partners, a mobile telecommunications specialist. It is a two way communication between disaster affected people and aid agencies, and was originally used to help combat cholera in Haiti. Tera’s operators can send millions of SPAM-like messages without having access to specific phone numbers. Individual subscribers can opt out of receiving the texts, and operators can apply their own exclusion lists.

To date just over 9,900 cases have been reported, and roughly 4,900 people killed by the Ebola virus. These are not accurate numbers they are speculative as there is a large number of cases which have not been reported. Some people are either scared of reporting when they have symptoms or they are turned away because of a lack of efficient healthcare in their communities. Some people have died in their homes without having reported and these are the accumulative numbers that suggest that the number of death cases could be triple what they are according to World Health Organization.

“We don’t really know how many deaths there have been, because there are a lot of people who have died alone … or out in the bush,” WHO spokesman Dan Epstein said. Those deaths go unreported, Epstein noted, so the agency uses statistical models to account for what they estimate is the number of unreported cases. Health workers on the ground in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone often rely on anecdotal evidence to estimate the number of Ebola deaths in a particular village or town. During field studies, locals might tell disease trackers that their village has had 20 deaths from Ebola, but “no one is verifying it,” Epstein said

The symptoms for the Ebola virus include; Nausea and vomiting, Diarrhea (may be bloody), Red eyes, Raised rash, Chest pain and cough, Stomach pain, Severe weight loss, Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and bruising (people near death may bleed from other orifices, such as ears, nose and rectum). The fight against this dreadful disease continues has researchers and scientists work tirelessly to find a cure and management strategies for this. Researches are now looking to Nigeria to find how they managed to contain the disease and hopefully use the same strategy in fighting against the Ebola outbreak which continues to claim innocent lives.