Here in Southeast Guinea, medics are taking no chances. Some health workers have already been infected. Even touching someone with Ebola without full protective gear could mean a quick death sentence.The outbreak has now spread to the capital Conakry; home to two million people.
MICHEL VAN HERP, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: We are facing an epidemic of unseen proportions because of its geographical spread. Other epidemics in the past have been much more concentrated than this one. It makes our work much more difficult.
Outbreaks are relatively rare: it happens when the virus makes the jump from its hosts, usually fruit bats, to humans.
PROFESSOR DAVID HEYMANN: The human body has never been in contact with this virus or a similar virus before. So when it does emerge from nature into humans, it wreaks havoc with the immune system and the body in general.
So what makes Ebola one of the deadliest viruses on the planet? Up to ninety percent of those infected die from the virus. It’s highly infectious and can be transmitted by simply touching an infected patient. Symptoms include high fevers, vomiting, and heavy bleeding and eventually organ failure.
Ebola is on the move. It’s managed to cross into neighboring Liberia with four suspected deaths there. People are also being checked for symptoms in Sierra Leon. But Guinea’s President is urging his people and the world not to panic. The World Health Organization has also called for calm. It says whilst the outbreak is a serious concern, it remains relatively limited. Guinea’s weak heath system can’t deal with this alone; Public Health England is one of the many organizations now sending help but with more than eighty deaths and counting, many remain understandably terrified. Tulip Mazumdar, BBC News.