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West African ebola virus crisis deepens

01 August 2014

by a staff reporter


Cover up: two medical staff prepare to take food to patients kept in an isolation area at an Ebola treatment centre, in Kailahun, Sierra Leone

Cover up: two medical staff prepare to take food to patients kept in an isolation area at an Ebola treatment centre, in Kailahun, Sierra Leone

TWO doctors fighting the Ebola virus in West Africa have died, and two aid workers are being treated for the disease, which has killed 672 people in this latest outbreak, the UN reports.

Two US aid workers working with the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse and its missionary partner Serving in Mission (SIM) have also contracted Ebola, which has no known cure. The charity confirmed that Dr Kent Brantly and a missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was working as a hygienist in a hospital, are undergoing treatment in separate isolation units in Liberia.

On Thursday, Samaritan's Purse reported that Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol had "shown a slight improvement in the last 24 hours", but that "both remain in a serious condition". 

The president of SIM USA, Bruce Johnson, said: "The next few days are critical in assessing the recovery of these Ebola-crisis responders. SIM and Samaritan's Purse invite people to pray for the full restoration of our two workers, and for the stemming of the spread of this virus across Liberia and other nations of West Africa."

The virus has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, but a friend of Dr Brantly said that he had "no regrets" about his decision to move to Liberia. His wife and two young children, who had been in Liberia with him, had returned to visit family in the US when Dr Brantly came down with symptoms.

On Thursday, the government of Sierra Leone declared a public health emergency in an attempt to control the spread of the disease. The president, Ernest Bai Koroma, said that the military would be used to enforce a quarantine area.

The doctor who led the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, has died a week after showing symptoms of the disease. Government officials hailed him as a "national hero". In Liberia, a prominent doctor, Samuel Brisbane, died of the virus at the weekend.

The outbreak - the world's deadliest to date - was first reported in Guinea in February. It then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has reported its first case - a Liberian ministry official who had flown into Lagos. Flights by the airline, Asky, which had brought him into the country, have been suspended.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, and said that the Government was focused on tackling the threat to the UK.

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