The death toll of an Ebola outbreak in Western Africa that began earlier this month has risen to 78 in Guinea, prompting Doctors Without Borders to declare it an "unprecedented epidemic." Of two confirmed cases in Liberia, one of the victims is dead.
"We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry," Mariano Lugli, coordinator of Doctors Without Borders' project in Conakry, said in a blog post
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Bloomberg reports that there are 122 suspected or confirmed cases
of the disease across Guinea alone, and that because the disease has been found in both urban coastal areas as well as southern villages, the pattern of infection is unique.
"Doctors Without Borders has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but they were much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations. This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic," said Lugli.
Doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, water and sanitation experts, anthropologists, as well as over 40 tons of equipment have been flown in to fight the epidemic. By week's end, there will be over 60 field workers on the ground who have experience with Ebola and the hemorrhagic fever it causes.
One of the field workers' main objectives is to identify those potentially infected. Epidemiologist Michel Van Herp explained that "To stop the outbreak, it is important to trace the chain of transmission. All contacts of patients likely to have been contaminated should be monitored and isolated at the first sign of infection."
He said the particular strain of Ebola has been identified as the Zaire strain, "the most aggressive and deadly," that kills more than 9 in 10 patients.
Neighboring Liberia has confirmed two cases of the virus. One of those cases was confirmed dead. Sierra Leone and Senegal have no confirmed cases, and Senegal closed its border with Guinea, temporarily shutting down marketplaces that drew thousands from multiple countries.
There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, and it is initially transmitted to humans from wild mammals. The Guinean government has asked citizens to refrain from eating monkeys, chimpanzees, bats, and to avoid visiting the affected areas.
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