London, July 31 (IANS): The deadly Ebola virus does not pose a global threat, a latest report has claimed, adding that as long as the virus continues to infect people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, there is small risk of more long-distance export of the disease.
"There is no reason to assume that an exported case - be it to Lagos in Nigeria, a city of 17 million people, or any other place - will spark new outbreaks, because Ebola is not highly contagious," said the Nature report by author Declan Butler.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there is a high risk of spread to countries bordering those with existing outbreaks, a moderate risk to countries further afield in the sub-region, but that there is little chance of spread overseas.
To date, the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic has been reported in three countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with a total of 1,200 cases and 672 deaths.
This is the largest recorded Ebola outbreak in terms of cases, deaths and geographical coverage, according to WHO.
The strain of Ebola in the current outbreak appears to kill 56 percent of the people it infects.
To become infected in the first place, a person's mucous membranes, or an area of broken skin, must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person such as blood, urine, saliva, semen or stools, or contaminated materials such as soiled clothing or bed linen.
According to the report, "a pandemic flu virus can spread around the world in days or weeks and may be unstoppable whereas Ebola only causes sporadic localised outbreaks that can usually be stamped out".
So why is the outbreak continuing in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia?
"Ebola is out of control in these countries because the sheer size of the outbreak is stretching response teams, and also because of local socio-cultural factors like a lack of trust and cooperation among the affected populations," Butler added.
According to WHO, not all people who are infected are getting or seeking care, and so are passing the virus on to family and other close contacts.
"Another major driver of new infections is that families are often continuing to perform traditional burial rites that involve mourners having direct contact with the bodies of the dead - and unfortunately all too often Ebola," the report maintained.
According to Butler, "Outreach, in particular involving local community leaders, will be vital to persuade people to trust health workers and to follow public-health advice".