Since the first confirmed case in March, the West African Ebola outbreak is growing more serious by the day — 1,201 cases, including 672 deaths, have now been documented in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
On Sunday, the Associated Press confirmed the death of a prominent Liberian doctor, as well as the infection of two Americans in the country, a doctor and a missionary. A Ugandan doctor in Liberia also died after exposure to the virus three weeks ago and Sierra Leone's lead physician in fighting Ebola fell ill with the disease last week.
The first confirmed cases of Ebola occurred back in March, in southwest Guinea, and the disease has since spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
There is no known cure for the excruciatingly painful hemorrhagic fever that begins with a fever and sore throat, and ends with vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding. The death rate from this outbreak is about 60 percent, though it has reached 90 percent in past outbreaks.
Immediately bordering the outbreak area are Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, and the Ivory Coast, where no cases of Ebola have yet been confirmed. Last week an infected Liberian flew to the Nigerian capital of Lagos, where he died shortly thereafter. The hospital in which he died has since been emptied and quarantined, with the 59 people in contact with him undergoing monitoring by the state health ministry. Nigeria's largest airline has since suspended flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, and Liberia's president announced the closure of most of the country's border crossings on Sunday.
Experts suspect bushmeat from Lofa, a forest area overlapping the three countries where outbreaks have been reported, to be a carrier of Ebola. Though the selling of bushmeat is currently banned in Liberia and the Ivory Coast, the practice of eating animals including monkeys, bats, and groundhogs is still widespread.
Over the past few months, state governments and health officials have met opposition from locals, some of whom have alleged a number of conspiracies and deny the presence of Ebola. Some in Guinea and Liberia believe warnings of Ebola are a ploy to get international aid, while others think the government and officials are actually behind the epidemic.
Villages in Guinea have banned Doctors Without Borders NGO (MSF) from entering, threatening them with knives and rocks. In April, one of the group's facilities in the country was attacked by a mob alleging that MSF itself had brought Ebola to the area.
Earlier this month in Sierra Leone, an infected woman was taken out of hospital by her family in order to take her to a traditional healer, launching a frenzied search across the country. Last week it was confirmed that she had died in an ambulance on the way to another hospital. The country, which now has the largest number of Ebola cases, was also the site of a massive protest at a hospital in Kenema on Friday, in which police dispensed tear gas and shot a nine-year-old child in the leg. The protest was allegedly sparked by a rumor that Ebola was being used to disguise cannibalistic practices in the hospital.
The current outbreak is the largest recorded since the disease was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, in 1976.
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