West Africa on high alert after deadly Ebola outbreak kills 83 so far

 

Travel Correspondent

The deadliest strain of Ebola virus is spreading through West Africa. Confirmed cases in Guinea, where the outbreak began, now number 127, of whom 83 victims have died. Eight deaths have occurred in the capital, Conakry, with further cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The variant responsible is the Zaire strain; this is the most aggressive form of Ebola, and kills nine out of 10 people who contract it.

Médecins Sans Frontières describes the epidemic as “unprecedented”. The medical charity’s project coordinator, Mariano Lugli, said: “We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country."

But the World Health Organisation has been more cautious in its statements, describing the outbreak as “relatively small”. A spokesman for the WHO, Gregory Hartl, said: “Ebola already causes enough concern and we need to be very careful about how we characterise something which is up until now an outbreak with sporadic cases."

Ebola was first identified in 1976, in near-simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter took place near the Ebola River, from which the name was taken.

The initial symptoms are fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. These signs are swiftly followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, kidney and liver failure, and sometimes both internal and external bleeding.

The virus reaches the human population through contact with the blood, bodily fluids or organs of infected mammals, including fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. The WHO believes that primates do not constitute the reservoir of infection, but are “accidental hosts” – as are humans.

Ebola is transmitted between humans when the bodily fluids of infected people contaminate others, usually through broken skin or mucous membranes. Healthcare staff are particularly at risk. The illness has been known to spread after funerals in which mourners have had direct contact with the body of the victim.

Health Protection Scotland, which provides travel medicine advice on behalf of the NHS, said the risk of travellers becoming infected is “extremely low”, unless there has been direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of infected people or animals.

There is no vaccine against Ebola, though several are being tested. Treatment is limited to rehydration. The WHO says: “Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; testing should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.”

The spread of the virus is contained by isolating the victims and those who have come into contact with them. This process is hampered by Ebola’s incubation period; it can take up to three weeks from infection to the onset of symptoms.

The worst outbreak was in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995, in which 254 people died from a total of 315 infected – a mortality rate of 81 per cent. An outbreak in Uganda in 2000 infected more people – 425 – but more than 200 survived.

As the death toll in the present outbreak increases, the Foreign Office has warned travellers to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to “maintain strict standards of hygiene and avoid eating bushmeat”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment