Ebola is spreading in West Africa, as the first case of the deadly virus has been confirmed in Sierra Leone, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday. At least four other deaths in the country are also thought to be attributed to Ebola, but have not yet been confirmed. According to reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), at least one health care worker is among the victims.
This outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever began in Guinea, which shares a border with Sierra Leone, and is the first to occur in West Africa. Since the virus originated earlier this year, at least 174 people have died from it. The majority of these deaths occured in Guinea, with a small number in Liberia. Several cases of Ebola were suspected in Sierra Leone when the outbreak first began, but tests for the virus came back negative.
According to the WHO, the confirmed case of Ebola and the five deaths were reported from Koindu chiefdom in Sierra Leone, which is an area that borders Guinea. The announcement was made on Monday by the Director of Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Amara Jambai. Local newspapers report that over 10 other fatalities are suspected to be outcomes of Ebola infection. The WHO has sent a team of six medical experts with medical supplies to the area to try to contain further spread of the illness.
The first case of Ebola that has spread into Sierra Leone confirms fears that the virus is not yet under control in West Africa. There have also been eight new deaths in Guinea, with Ebola as the suspected culprit. Eighty-six people are under observation after being exposed to the illness. No new cases have been reported from the capital city of Conakry since April 26. Ebola in this international travel hub poses a greater threat of the virus spreading beyond Africa’s borders. On Friday, health officials in Guinea reported two new confirmed cases of the virus in an area that was previously Ebola-free.
Ebola has a 90 percent mortality rate, with the current outbreak at about 70 percent, according to the WHO. The symptoms of Ebola can include fever, weakness, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, diminished liver and kidney function, and internal and external bleeding. There is no vaccine or cure for the deadly virus. It is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids or animals that harbor the virus, like bats. The incubation period for the disease is up to 21 days. This means that it can take up to this long for a person to show symptoms.
Ebola typically affects East Africa. It was first identified in 1976 in the Republic of the Congo. This strain of the virus is known as the Zaire Ebola virus. There are several other strains, but researchers initially thought that the Zaire strain was the one responsible for the current outbreak. There has since been a study published expressing that a new strain of the virus is responsible for the West Africa outbreak.
Confirmation of the very first case of Ebola in Sierra Leone shows the continual spread of the virus in West Africa. This is frustrating news for all of those living in West Africa, and for those battling the virus and trying to prevent its spread.
By Twanna Harps