Ebola death toll in West Africa rise to 467, WHO says

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The number of people killed by the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has risen to 467, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Sixty-eight of the deaths had been recorded since 23 June, the WHO said.

The number of cases had risen from 635 on 23 June to 759, a 20% increase, the WHO added.

It is the largest outbreak - in terms of cases, deaths and geographical spread - to affect Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, has no cure and is spread by contact with the fluids of infected people or animals, such as urine, sweat and blood.

Most of the deaths have been centred in the southern Guekedou region of Guinea, where the outbreak was first reported in February.

The rise in infections will increase pressure on the health ministers of 11 West African countries when they meet in Ghana on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the growing crisis, correspondents say.

The WHO has called for "drastic action" to tackle the outbreak.

"Containment of this outbreak requires a strong response in the countries and especially along their shared border areas," it said in a statement.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Image source, Science Photo Library
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus

On Monday, Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warned that anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients will be prosecuted.

She told state radio that some patients had been kept in homes and churches instead of receiving medical attention.

Sierra Leone issued a similar warning last week, saying some patients had left hospital and gone into hiding.

Health workers fighting the outbreak say they have encountered resistance throughout the region, and that some of them have even been attacked.

Liberia's health ministry has set up treatment centres and launched a public service campaign that includes training health professionals to use protective clothing, and forbidding hospitals to turn away patients with Ebola symptoms.

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