A deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus has so far killed at least 78 people in Guinea and has spread to neighboring Liberia, according to the World Health Organization confirmations on Sunday.
Guinea had been struggling to contain the outbreak after cases were reported in areas that are hundreds of miles apart.
“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases,” Mariano Lugli, a coordinator in Guinea for the Medecins Sans Frontieres.
The outbreak of Ebola had centered around Guinea’s remote south-eastern region of Nzerekore, but it took the authorities six weeks to identify the disease.
Figures released overnight by Guinea’s health ministry showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected Ebola since January, up from 70. Of these, about 22 are laboratory confirmed.
Two Liberian sisters are the first confirmed cases of death from Ebola, one of whom had recently returned from Guinea. Sierra Leone has also reported five suspected cases, but none confirmed. Senegal, a neighbor of Guinea, has closed its land border.
WHO has called on people to remain calm and is against any travel advisories to these countries.
Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a human disease that may be caused by any of four of the five known Ebola viruses. It is an extremely severe disease, with up to 90 percent fatality rate according to WHO.
Symptoms begin with a sudden onset of influenza like characteristics, such as fever, general malaise and vomiting. About half of victims experience coagulopathy or excessive bleeding in the membranes.
This outbreak is the first of its kind in West Africa in two decades. The disease has killed an estimated 1,500 people since it was first discovered in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976.
S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, http://Facebook.com/TheReporterandTheGirl and visit her website at http://www.SCRhyne.com