Ebola continues to spread through West Africa, stoking fears of epidemic

Friday, April 18, 2014
By Paul Martin

Scientists believe this outbreak stems from a new strain, and they worry that it could spread across West Africa

AlJazerra.com
April 17, 2014

The World Health Organization says an Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed 137 lives.

The disease, typically found in central or eastern Africa, has infected people in Guinea’s remote forests, its capital and in neighboring Liberia.

The widespread geography of the new outbreak has sparked fears that a new Ebola epidemic could be on the horizon, a prospect that has caused panic across a region with weak health care systems and porous borders.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the U.N. health agency said authorities have identified more than 220 suspected or confirmed cases of the disease in the two countries. Nearly 200 of those are in Guinea.

There is no cure and no vaccine for the disease, which causes patients to bleed internally and externally. It is highly contagious, and infected people are usually held in isolated wards.

Further stoking concerns about the possibility of a widespread epidemic, a study published in a U.S. medical journal on Wednesday found that the Ebola outbreak is from a new strain, not one imported from countries that have had epidemics in the past.

Scientists initially believed that Central Africa’s Zaire strain of the virus was responsible for the outbreak. But analysis of blood samples from infected patients researchers determined that while the Guinean form of the Ebola virus (EBOV) showed a 97 percent similarity to the strain found in Zaire, now known at the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the disease was not introduced from Central Africa.

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