Sierra Leone widens Ebola quarantine to three more districts

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Media captionUmaru Fofana is in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has widened a quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola.

The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south, will in effect be sealed off immediately.

Nearly 600 people have died of the virus in Sierra Leone where two eastern districts are already blockaded.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has said the world needs to act faster to halt the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

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Media captionPresident Barack Obama: Ebola a threat to global security

"There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be," Mr Obama told a high-level United Nations meeting on Ebola.

In other developments:

  • New UN World Health Organization figures show that 2,917 people have died in the outbreak, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea the worst affected
  • Spanish missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, has died at a Madrid hospital - the second Spaniard to die of the virus
  • A third US aid worker, Dr Rick Sacra, has recovered after becoming infected with Ebola in Liberia, and has been released from a US hospital
  • The World Bank has added $170m (£104m) to the $230m it had already pledged to fight Ebola. Bank chief Jim Yong Kim said "a response unlike anything the world has ever seen" was needed "to prevent the potential meltdown of the continent".

Mr Koroma's announcement follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.

Two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone's 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.

Skills shortage:

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  • Liberia with a 4.2m population: 51 doctors; 978 nurses and midwives; 269 pharmacists
  • Sierra Leone with a 6m population: 136 doctors; 1,017 nurses and midwives; 114 pharmacists

Source: Afri-Dev.Info

Ebola drains weak health systems

During Sierra Leone's three-day curfew, more than a million households were surveyed and 130 new cases discovered, the authorities say.

President Koroma said the move had been a success but had exposed "areas of greater challenges", which was why other areas were being quarantined.

Only people delivering essential services can enter and circulate within areas under quarantine.

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Media captionAbba Abashi, Liberian-Nigerian student: "My mum caught me crying"

In a televised address, the president acknowledged that the blockade would "pose great difficulties" for people.

"[But] the life of everyone and the survival of our country take precedence over these difficulties," he said.

According to WHO, the situation nationally in Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate with a sharp increase in the number of newly reported cases in the capital, Freetown, and its neighbouring districts of Port Loko, Bombali, and Moyamba, which are now under quarantine.

Country Existing bed capacity Newly funded beds Extra beds still required
Guinea 180 0 40
Liberia 315 440 1,550
Sierra Leone 323 297 532

The BBC's Umaru Fofana in Freetown says Port Loko is where two of the country's major iron ore mining companies operate and the restrictions are likely to hamper business.

The WHO said despite efforts to deploy more health workers and open new Ebola treatment centres in the worst-affected countries, there was still a significant lack of beds in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with more than 2,000 needed.

The situation in Guinea had appeared to be stabilising, but with up to 100 new confirmed cases reported in each of the past five weeks, it was still of grave concern, it said.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Image copyright SPL
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

Ebola virus: busting the myths

A new BBC Ebola programme with the latest news about the outbreak is broadcast at 19.50 GMT each weekday on the BBC World Service.

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