Ebola Spreads to Sierra Leone as Outbreak Resurges

Sierra Leone reported four suspected deaths from Ebola, making it the third country to report cases in the worst outbreak in seven years of the virus.

The deaths were reported yesterday in the Koindu chiefdom of Sierra Leone that borders Guinea’s Gueckedou prefecture, the Geneva-based World Health Organization said in a statement today. Gueckedou is the worst-affected area in an outbreak that’s infected 258 people and killed 174 of them since March, according to the WHO.

The deaths, plus another confirmed case in a patient who is still alive, are Sierra Leone’s first and mark a new front in an outbreak that appeared to be waning. Eight cases and three deaths were also reported in Guinea’s Telimele district, which hadn’t previously reported any cases, the WHO said May 24.

The virus, first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is transmitted to people through the blood and other secretions of wild animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, bats and porcupines, according to the WHO. Humans transmit the virus to each other through contact with blood and other body fluids. Previous outbreaks have killed as many as 90 percent of those infected. There are no approved drugs or vaccines to treat or prevent Ebola.

Ebola is one in a handful of diseases that are so deadly and so contagious that they pose a risk to national security, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency lists the virus as a Category A bioterrorism agent, alongside anthrax and smallpox.

The WHO said it doesn’t recommend any travel or trade restrictions with Sierra Leone.

(Corrects number of deaths in first paragraph in story that ran on May 26.)
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