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Death toll from Ebola virus disease exceeds 1,000 in West Africa

Between August 7 and 9 alone, 69 new EVD cases were registered in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with 52 of them reported lethal

The death toll inflicted by the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa since February reached 1,013 and the number of people infected totaled 1,848, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Tuesday.

Between August 7 and 9 alone, 69 new Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases were registered in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with 52 of them reported lethal.

The largest number of deaths was reported in Guinea, where the outbreak of the virus was registered last December and claimed 373 lives. A total of 323 people were reported dead in neighboring Liberia and 315 in Sierra Leone.

Two deaths from EVD were reported in Nigeria, which is the most densely populated state in Africa.

The WHO describes Ebola virus disease as “a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%.” Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. The incubation period is 2 to 21 days.

There is no known cure or vaccine for the disease. The only treatment offered is “supportive intensive care.” During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

The Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) was first reported in 1976 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and inherited its name from the river near which the first outbreak was registered.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has recently visited Guinea and held high-level meetings with the presidents of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to review the status of the Ebola epidemic and adopt common strategies to eradicate Ebola from the sub-region.

Chan announced a large-scale response plan to fight the Ebola outbreak. The emergency relief fund is about 30 million U.S. dollars and another 70 million are expected to come from donor countries, organisations and individuals.

Key elements of the new plan include strategies to stop transmission of Ebola virus disease in the affected countries through scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures; and to prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease to the neighbouring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures.

“WHO and affected and neighbouring countries will renew efforts to mobilise communities and strengthen communication so that people know how to avoid infection and what to do if they fear they may have come into contact with the virus,” the organisation said.

The plan also calls for sending hundreds of medical specialists to West African countries impacted by the disease. According to WHO, hundreds of doctors and more than 120 of its specialists are already working on the ground, and about 60 doctors have died from the Ebola virus disease.