Facing Ebola Outbreak, Officials Must Contain Both Virus And Panic

Health workers in the West African nation of Guinea are working to control an outbreak of the Ebola virus. The disease has sickened 86 people and killed 59, according to the World Health Organization.

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Dozens of deaths are reported in Guinea in West Africa, the results of the Ebola virus. Health officials and aid agencies are working to contain both the disease and panic about the outbreak. We'll explore the origins of the deadly virus in a moment. First, NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on the outbreak.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The epicenter of the human Ebola outbreak was first detected in Guinea's forested southeastern region. Patients began dying in February, with telltale symptoms ranging from flu-like pains to profuse bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. There's no known cure for this hemorrhagic fever, which spreads rapidly on direct human contact with blood and bodily fluids, as physician Armand Sprecher from the medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned. And he says Ebola can be transmitted from the living or the dead.

ARMAND SPRECHER: African burial rituals do involve touching of the deceased. And historically, it's been a very common way that the disease is transmitted. So, caregivers and people attending burials are the most heavily affected by these diseases.

QUIST-ARCTON: Neighboring countries fear the virus may have crossed Guinea's borders. Liberia's health minister says his agency is investigating the deaths of five people who came from Guinea. Nearby Mauritania has closed its frontiers with Guinea's neighbors. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

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