WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 – The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has resulted in 729 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Fifty-seven deaths were reported between July 24 and 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone raising the death toll from 672. During that same four-day period, 122 new cases were detected.
This outbreak is the single worst since the virus was first detected in Zaire in 1976.
Sierra Leon President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared a public health emergency asking for security forces to enforce quarantines at infection epicenters. On the Sierra Leone web site, President Koroma’s address includes the following information:
We are launching a National Response Plan to inaugurate Phase Two of our fight against the disease. I also hereby establish a Presidential Task Force on Ebola which I will chair to champion the implementation of the following:
- All epicenters of the disease will be quarantined;
- The police and the military will give support to health officers and NGOs to do their work unhindered and restrict movements to and from epicenters;
- Localities and homes where the disease is identified will be quarantined until cleared by medical teams;
- Public meetings and gatherings will be restricted with the exception of essential meetings related to Ebola sensitization and education;
- Active surveillance and house-to-house searches shall be conducted to trace and quarantine Ebola victims and suspects;
- Parliament is recalled to promote MPs leadership at constituency levels;
- Paramount chiefs are required to establish bye-laws that would complement other efforts to deal with the Ebola outbreak;
- Mayors, chairmen of councils and councilors are hereby required to support Ebola control measures in their local government areas;
- All deaths must be reported authorities before burial;
- New protocols for arriving and departing passengers have been instituted at the Lungi International Airport;
- Cancellation of all foreign trips by ministers and other government officials except absolutely essential engagements.
Koroma has cancelled his planned trip to the U.S. for a planned United States-Africa summit meeting in Washington. President Alpha Condé of Guinea still plans to attend, a spokeswoman at the Guinea Embassy in Washington confirmed on Thursday.
Three-hundred and forty Peace Corp volunteers have been withdrawn from the effected areas. Liberia is closing schools and putting non-essential government workers on 30-day leave.
“The epidemic is very big, very dispersed,” said Dr. Hilde de Clerck, the interim emergency coordinator in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders. “It seems logical that the country is reacting. I do understand that the central government has to do something. Cases are now being reported in more southern regions. There is a geographical spread. We do see that it is several districts that are hit now.”
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation – Sierre Leone Facebook page offers updated information on the epidemic and response in that country. Nigerian authorities have identified 59 people who crossed paths with a U.S. citizen who died in Lagos last week after traveling from Liberia, via Togo and Ghana.
ABC News Reports: Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick. In Liberia, authorities say 28 out of the 45 health workers who have contracted the disease so far have died. Two American health workers sick with the virus remain in isolation.