West Africa is facing a widespread outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that doctors and officials are calling “unprecedented,” and there is a fear it could spread to other continents.
The outbreak is so bad that at least one nation, Senegal, has closed its borders in an attempt to stop the spread of one of the world’s most lethal infectious diseases. The fatality rate is upwards of 90 percent and there are no cures.
The United Nations reported that the disease spread quickly from rural areas to Guinea’s capital, Conarky, a major port that also has an international airport. Some flights from Conarky have already been cancelled, as was a big music concert in the capital.
“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country,” Mariano Lugli of the charity Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) told The Guardian. “This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organizations working to control the epidemic.”
Lugli is worried because the disease has broken out in several places that are hundreds of miles apart. Guinea’s health ministry reported that 78 people have died in the outbreak and as many as 122 cases of the disease have been confirmed.
Two cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Guinea’s neighbor, Liberia. The cases involved two sisters who had recently returned from a trip to Guinea. The BBC reported that the World Health Organization reported seven suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia and four deaths.
Senegal’s health minister, Awa Marie Coll-Seck, told the BBC that her government had closed weekly markets and was even planning to cancel church services and religious festivals to stop the contagion’s spread. Five suspected cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone.
Trying Desperately To Contain It
“My government and I are very worried about this epidemic,” Guinea’s President, Alpha Conde, told the press. Conde has ordered his people to take strict precautions.
The outbreak already has officials in North America worried that Ebola might spread here. Canadian authorities isolated a man in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and tested him for Ebola. The man had recently returned from a trip to West Africa, and the WHO confirmed that the man was suffering from malaria and not Ebola.
Ebola, or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is a family of viruses that spreads from animals such as bats, monkeys and Chimpanzees to humans. It originates in the forests of West Africa and often spreads to people who eat the meat of wild game.
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Doctors believe Ebola spreads between people through direct contact. Persons caring for sick relatives often die from it. Health care workers often catch Ebola from patients and die from it. It can also be spread through needles, which means it might spread between intravenous drug users like AIDS does. Many doctors don’t think Ebola can spread through the air, although there is some scientific evidence that is can.
The symptoms of Ebola include:
- Muscle Pain
- Sore Throat
It can take between two and 21 days for a case of Ebola to develop.