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Charities unite to combat spread of Ebola virus

11 April 2014


Front line: treatment areas are prepared for victims of the Ebola virus in Gueckedou, Guinea, on 28 March

Front line: treatment areas are prepared for victims of the Ebola virus in Gueckedou, Guinea, on 28 March

AT LEAST one faith-based charity has joined the fight to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone.

The Evangelical relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, based in the United States, is supplying emergency medical supplies to its partner, the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital, near the Liberian capital, Monrovia, and providing air transport for medical personnel and supplies to various parts of the country. It is also conducting public-education and awareness campaigns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that, so far, 187 suspected cases - including 111 deaths - had been reported, mostly in southern Guinea, which has never experienced the disease before.

The assistant director-general of the WHO, Keija Fukuda, described it as "one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have ever dealt with", which could take another four months to contain. Its geographical spread makes it difficult to contain - past outbreaks have involved much smaller areas.

Ebola is highly contagious, and one of the most lethal viruses known to humans. It kills between 25 per cent and 90 per cent of its victims. The virus leads to haemorrhagic fever, which causes muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea, and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

Recent research, however, has shown that victims can develop an immunity to some strains of the virus. In Guinea, workers with the French medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported several cases where patients recovered full health.

Marie-Claire Lamah, a doctor in MSF's treatment centre in the Guinea capital, Conakry, said: "When the first patient came out from the treatment centre, I was so happy, and the whole team was cheering."

MSF is now having to assure communities that the patients are no longer contagious. "We explain to the families and neighbours that the patient is now negative, and doesn't present any risks to anyone - they can be kissed, touched, and hugged without any risk of contagion," MSF's health-promoter Ella Watson-Stryker said.

Last Friday, an angry crowd attacked a treatment centre in Macenta, 265 miles from Conakry, accusing its staff of bringing the disease to the town.

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