West Africa Ebola deaths rise to 539, new WHO figures show

The ‘good news’ is that transmission appeared to have slowed in worst-hit Guinea

The worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has now killed 539 people, according to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) figures.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, said last week the haemorrhagic fever sweeping through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

was “out of control”, with more than 60 hotspots.

MSF and the UN health agency have said the outbreak is expected to continue for several months.

A regional centre is being set up in Guinea to coordinate the response to the outbreak  that has killed a total of 309 people in the west African nation where the epidemic broke out in February.

However the WHO said Friday that transmission appeared to have slowed in worst-hit Guinea, with only one new case reported in the past week.

The largest number of new cases and deaths attributed to Ebola and reported this week came out of Sierra Leone, where another 32 people fell sick and 15 died.

Liberia has had 142 cases, 88 of whom have died and Sierra Leone 337 case of Ebola and 142 deaths.

The WHO said it did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied to the three countries.

Ebola is a form of haemorrhagic fever that has several species and can be deadly in up to 90 percent of cases.

Tracking and treating the disease has been a challenge as rural populations are often highly mistrustful of foreign doctors and don’t follow their advice.

Traditional practices, which include touching the bodies at their funerals have also contributed to the spread of the virus.

“The sub-regional centre will be responsible for ensuring effective use and deployment of limited and scarce, but highly critical resources based on prioritisation and agreed objectives,” the WHO said in a statement.

On Thursday Ghana president John Dramani Mahama announced that an Ebola fund proposed by sub-regional body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had started receiving commitments.

He said Nigeria alone had donated $3.5 million to be disbursed to the three west African countries suffering the Ebola spread. “These funds will be spent on procuring logistics for the affected countries in their fight against the continued spread of the disease,” Mahama told the media after the rescheduled closing ceremony of the 45th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS.

The Ghanaian president said he was hopeful that when fully operational, the ECOWAS Pool Fund for Ebola would help provide the necessary logistics for dealing with the disease, and stem the trend of spread in the sub-region.

The disease can fell victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhoea—and in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

Ebola is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, notably bats.

It spreads among humans via bodily fluids including sweat, meaning you can get sick from simply touching an infected person. With no vaccine, patients believed to have caught the virus have to be isolated to prevent further contagion.

The outbreak is the first in west Africa, and the largest since Ebola first emerged in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

-Additional reporting by Xinhua

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