West Africa Ebola outbreak: deaths now top 140

A TOTAL of 142 deaths have now been recorded from the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Liberia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guinea, which has borne the brunt of the outbreak, has reported 208 clinical cases of the Ebola virus (EBOV) and 136 deaths so-far. While neighboring Liberia has found 34 clinically compatible cases, including six deaths.

The outbreak began at the beginning of the year in the forested villages of southeast Guinea, and then appeared in the capital Conakry.

As little as nine days ago the number of deaths and infections had begun to fall and it seemed that the outbreak was under control. The latest figures have quashed any hope that the spread of the disease is being contained.

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Meanwhile, the British Red Cross has deployed a second member of staff to Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak as over 2 million people are warned, by text message, of the dangers of the disease.

?5Already, the Red Cross has launched emergency operations in six West African countries in response to the outbreak. Red Cross volunteers across the region are being mobilised to work in the affected regions to step up emergency communications and raise awareness among communities of how to prevent the spread of the virus.

In Sierra Leone, the Red Cross, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Airtel, is using an innovative SMS mobile text system called the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA) to communicate messages of Ebola prevention and respond to the outbreak.

Paul Jenkins, head of International Partnership Development at the British Red Cross, who responded to the 2002 Ebola outbreak in Congo Brazzaville said, “To our advantage, we now know that epidemics can be stopped. And the principle is always the same: isolating suspected patients to prevent them from giving the disease to people around them and scaling up our education and awareness campaigns.

“In a proactive move, the Sierra Leone Red Cross is using SMS messaging to raise awareness about Ebola prevention. In a short space of time, we have reached more than 2 million people through their mobile phones, with advice on how they can protect themselves and their families from the virus.”

Red Cross teams, together with local government authorities, community leaders and other aid agencies, are also taking to the streets and villages daily, educating the public on how to respond to the outbreak in affected communities across West Africa.

In addition to sending delegates to the region, the British Red Cross has pledged £35,000 towards an emergency appeal to support more than 3 million people in at-risk communities in Guinea. Funds have also been released from the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support awareness-raising activities in the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

The Ebola virus causes a severe acute viral illness often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and diarrhoea and vomiting. The hallmark of the disease is profuse bleeding. There is no cure or vaccine for the disease.

Words by@makiwahenry