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Ebola Takes its Toll in West Africa

The World Health Organization has reported that between May 29 and June 1, 21 deaths in Guinea were attributed to a recent outbreak of Ebola. Those deaths coincided with 37 newly identified Ebola cases in Guinea and 13 in Sierra Leone during the same period. So far, the outbreak, which began in February, has claimed 208 lives in Guinea. There are now 328 confirmed or suspected Ebola cases in Guinea and 79 cases in Sierra Leone along with six confirmed Ebola-caused deaths in that country.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. It is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people and has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. Recent medical studies have linked the disease to fruit bats. Outbreaks of the Ebola virus are most common in remote areas of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests. The most recent outbreak began in the southern region of Gueckedou in Guinea near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The original outbreak in 1976 left 280 dead.

To this day, there is no specific treatment for Ebola. People afflicted with the disease often suffer from severe dehydration and sometimes fluid injection is not a sufficient remedy. It is known, however, that those who become infected need intensive care. This often puts health care workers at risk because of their close proximity and likelihood of coming into contact with bodily fluids. It is for this reason that the World Health Organization is assisting the affected areas of Africa by providing proper health care training that could potentially keep the death toll from rising even higher. Recently, a three person team from Harvard and Tulane universities went to Sierra Leone to assist in Ebola detections.

Sierra Leone has recently prescribed several travel restrictions and banned trips to Guinea to attend funerals. These measures are intended to stem Ebola spread. Over the past few months it has become increasingly clear that this outbreak has been sustained through faulty medical practices and common interactions with bodily fluids from humans and animals. However, as the sources have become clearer, the death toll continues to rise.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: Boston Globe, NBC, Huff Post, Aljazeera, Fox News, WHO 1, WHO 2
Photo: The Times