For the first time this year new cases of Ebola increased last week in all three affected West African countries hit hard by the outbreak. The setback comes after weeks of signs suggesting the outbreak was beginning to wane.
A total of 124 newly confirmed cases were reported in the week ended Feb. 1, according to figures from the World Health Organization, up 25% from the 99 confirmed cases reported in the week ended Jan. 25.
“Continued community resistance, increasing geographical spread in Guinea and widespread transmission in Sierra Leone, and a rise in incidence show that the Ebola virus disease response still faces significant challenges,” the report stated.
The uptick comes after the number of new cases fell from 145 reported for the week ended Jan. 18 to 99 in the next week. Health officials have touted progress made over the last several weeks as health workers have implemented changes to burial practices and have worked extensively to rapidly identify and treat those infected.
Sierra Leone accounted for 80 of the 124 new cases in the region. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in December that reducing transmission rates in parts of that country remained a challenge due to a shortage of treatment beds.
Containing the disease's spread will become more challenging in the coming weeks as the wet season approaches, making travel to more rural areas more difficult, the WHO noted in its report.
More than 22,000 Ebola cases have been reported as of Feb. 1, according to the WHO, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths.
In the U.S., the American Hospital Association last week sent a letter to HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Nicole Lurie expressing concern that the agency's formula for allocating $576 million in emergency supplemental funding to states and local hospitals to bolster their Ebola preparedness failed to account for the expenses already incurred by many of the health systems designated as Ebola treatment centers. The funding was part of a $5.4 billion emergency funding package Congress approved in December.
“We are concerned that (HHS) may be planning to allocate only a small portion of these funds to healthcare facilities that stepped forward to raise their level of preparedness to care for suspected and confirmed Ebola patients,” AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack wrote.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson