Sierra Leone Vice President Sumana in quarantine after guard dies of Ebola; is top most leader to do so

While the virus is clearly in retreat in affected West African nations, progress in Sierra Leone seems to have hit a bump.

SIERRA Leone Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana went into self-imposed quarantine after his bodyguard died of Ebola, becoming the highest ranking African official to do so in over a year of the virus outbreak in West Africa.

Sumana’s bodyguard, 42-year-old John Koroma, died from Ebola on Friday, medical sources said. Sources at the vice president’s office said Sumana is not in danger but had decided to stay out of his office for the next 21 days and work from his home in the west of the capital.

In Liberia in October, Liberia’s Transport Minister Angeline Cassell-Bush put herself into voluntary quarantine.

The minister at that point became the second senior government official in Liberia to place themselves in voluntary quarantine after the chief medical officer took the same step in September when her assistant died of the deadly virus.

According to an e-mail from Sierra Leone’s ministry of Health, 18 people died of Ebola in Sierra Leone on Saturday, according to an e-mail from the ministry of health.

Total confirmed Ebola cases stand 8,349 since outbreak, with 3,151 deaths, the ministry said.

Ebola stands ground in Sierra Leone

While the virus is clearly in retreat in affected West African nations, progress in Sierra Leone seems to have hit a bump, with the country last Wednesday saying it was seeing a spike in Ebola infections, blaming unsafe burials that threaten to undermine the recovery from the deadly epidemic, AFP reported.

Having seen a steady decline in new cases over recent months, health authorities warned that the trend was being threatened by people flouting a ban on traditional funeral rites, seen as a key factor in the spread of the highly infectious virus.

Palo Conteh, head of the government’s National Ebola Response Centre, told reporters in the capital Freetown that the daily count of infections had risen to a peak of 16 for the week.

In the previous week the daily tally had dropped as low as two, he said.

“We warned then against complacency and stated clearly that we must anticipate spikes in cases as we strive to get to zero,” Conteh added.

“These numbers are rising because people continue to flout the law with impunity.”

Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the recently deceased or an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

Preventing unsafe burials has been a top priority in the response to the epidemic, yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) says Sierra Leone reported 45 in a single week up to February 15.

Families of victims are supposed to inform the authorities, who ask Red Cross experts dressed in biohazard suits and carrying disinfectant to bury the bodies.

Conteh said funeral homes had also reopened illegally across the country, accepting medical certificates as proof that the deceased were Ebola-free.

25 children quarantined

The WHO said in its latest update last Wednesday that, as of Sunday, 9,589 people had died of Ebola in West Africa since the epidemic emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013, out of 23,694 cases..

While Liberia is showing only a tiny handful of new cases each week, Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to be a worry to the authorities, who say they still do not have the epidemic under control.

Sierra Leone just got halfway through a two-week door-to-door operation in the hard-hit Port Loko district, east of Freetown, to find out if families are harbouring Ebola patients or concealing bodies.

Around 25 children were quarantined at the British-run St George Foundation orphanage near Freetown the previous week after one of its staff was diagnosed with Ebola.

The leaders of all three countries have pledged to eradicate the virus by mid-April.

Guinea said last week it had launched an awareness campaign in the capital Conakry and several other cities against the practice of unsafe burials.

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