/ 18 June 2014

Ebola death toll climbs in West Africa

The isolation block of a hospital used to treat Ebola victims in Macenta
The isolation block of a hospital used to treat Ebola victims in Macenta

The death toll from an outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has hit 337 since February, the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday, as local health services struggle to contain the highly contagious disease.

The WHO said 47 new cases and 14 deaths had been reported in the region in the past week alone, despite the dispatch of international experts to help out.

Guinea remains worst affected, with 264 Ebola-related deaths, according to WHO data. But the toll in Sierra Leone and Liberia has spiked recently, hitting 49 and 24 respectively.

The WHO has tried to co-ordinate the regional response but imposing the restrictions needed to control such an infectious disease has proven difficult. The organisation said last month that an earlier dip in cases masked the seriousness of the outbreak.

Guinea’s new cases were reported in Gueckedou, a remote southeast region where the outbreak was first confirmed, but also in Boffa, hundreds of kilometres to the northwest of capital city Conakry.

First deaths
Liberia reported four deaths in capital city Monrovia on Tuesday, the first to be confirmed in the sprawling ramshackle seaside city.

Sierra Leone’s death toll has risen rapidly since it confirmed its first deaths in late May.

The outbreak has led to some restrictions on flights and trade in the region but international mining firms operating in the three countries say it has not yet affected operations.

Discovered in 1976 after an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola has a fatality rate of up to 90% and there is no vaccine or known cure.

The virus causes raging fever, headaches, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and weakness before moving into more severe phases of vomiting, diarrhoea and haemorrhages. – Reuters