Governments and doctors are at last joining forces in a bid to combat the deadly Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.
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As Sierra Leone declares a state of emergency after the deaths of 233 virus victims, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has met leaders of the affected countries to set up a £59 million aid task force to try and stop the killer infection.
Since the first case was reported in Guinea in February 2014, 730 people have died from Ebola.
The virus spreads like wildfire through infected blood or the exchange of bodily fluids.
Even sweat from an infected person’s handshake can lead to contracting the virus.
Symptoms include bleeding from the eyes and mouth, as well as a fever and flu-like aches and pains.
So far, nine out of 10 people who have Ebola have died.
The death toll is thought to be much higher than the reported number as many victims live in outlying areas and have not been seen by doctors.
Besides Guinea and Sierra Leone, Liberia has closed all border posts and many airlines have banned flights in and out of the country as the disease spreads there.
And this week, the first death was reported in neighbouring Nigeria.
“The threat Ebola poses means WHO, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone need to escalate how we are tackling the outbreak by making more resources and doctors available even though we do not have a cure for the illness,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan.
“These countries have a lack of medical facilities, drugs and doctors to deal with an epidemic on this scale so we need to make sure they have what they need so we can contain the spread of the virus.”
Countries outside West Africa are helping the effort by making drugs and medical personnel available – including Britain, the European Union and US.
Part of the plan to contain Ebola is not only to concentrate resources on the countries facing the worst of the epidemic, but to upgrade early-warning and containment efforts in neighbouring African nations.
The WHO has expressed concern at the speed and extent of the Ebola outbreak – with almost 1,500 cases reported in just a few months.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is warning British expats, business travellers and tourists to avoid the affected countries.
One victim has already died in London after disembarking from a flight from the region. Similar cases have been reported in the US, Germany and other European nations.
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