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Africa

Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

© Zoom Dosso, AFP file picture | Protective gear belonging to Ebola medical workers dry in the sun

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-01

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday declared a state of emergency as the country scrambles to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 700 people across West Africa.

The president of Sierra Leone declared a public health emergency as the Ebola crisis claimed more than 700 lives across West Africa, vowing to quarantine sick patients and conduct house-to-house searches for others who may have been exposed.

The announcement from President Ernest Bai Koroma late on Wednesday came as neighbouring Liberia also ramped up its efforts to slow the virulent disease’s spread, shutting down schools and ordering most public servants to stay home from work.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that Ebola had killed 729 people in four West African countries this year and that it was earmarking $100 million to combat the outbreak in the region.

The US Peace Corps was evacuating hundreds of its volunteers in the affected countries. Two Peace Corps workers are under isolation outside the United States after having contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus, a State Department official said.

There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the disease, which has a fatality rate of about 60 percent.

Among the dead was the chief doctor treating Ebola in Sierra Leone, who was to be buried on Thursday. The government said Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan’s death was “an irreparable loss of this son of the soil”. The 39-year-old was a leading doctor on haemorrhagic fevers in a nation with very few medical resources.

Largest outbreak in history

The latest Ebola cases first emerged in Guinea back in March and later spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak is now the largest recorded in history and has infected three African capitals with international airports.

Officials are trying to step up the screening of passengers, although an infected US national was able to fly from Liberia to Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later.

But experts say the risk of travellers contracting it is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola cannot be spread through casual contact or breathing the same air like the flu.

Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point that they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organisation. The most vulnerable are healthcare workers and relatives who come in close contact with the sick.

Sierra Leone's Koroma announced he was cancelling a visit to Washington for a US-Africa summit next week because of the crisis.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-07-31

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