Sierra Leone Declares Health Emergency 07/31 06:46
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) -- The president of Sierra Leone declared a
public health emergency as the Ebola crisis blamed for nearly 700 deaths
deepened across West Africa, vowing to quarantine sick patients at home and
conduct house-to-house searches for others who may have been exposed.
The announcement from President Ernest Bai Koroma late Wednesday came as
neighboring Liberia also ramped up its efforts to slow the virulent disease's
spread, shutting down schools and ordering most public servants to stay home
The U.S. Peace Corps also was evacuating hundreds of its volunteers in the
affected countries. Two Peace Corps workers are under isolation outside the
U.S. after having contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus, a
State Department official said.
Ebola has been blamed for more than 670 deaths in four West African
countries this year, and has shown no signs of slowing down particularly in
Liberia and Sierra Leone. Among the dead was the chief doctor treating Ebola in
Sierra Leone, who was to be buried Thursday.
The government said Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan's death was "an irreparable loss
of this son of the soil." The 39-year-old was a leading doctor on hemorrhagic
fevers in a nation with very few medical resources.
Ebola cases first emerged in the nation of Guinea back in March, and later
spread across the borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak is now the
largest recorded in world history, and has infected three African capitals with
international airports. Officials are trying to step up screening of
passengers, though an American man was able to fly from Liberia to Nigeria,
where authorities say he died days later from Ebola.
Ebola has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of
about 60 percent. But experts say the risk of travelers contracting it is
considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or
secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola can't be spread like
flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.
Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point
they show symptoms, according to the World Health Organization. The most
vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer
contact with the sick.