With a high number of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases and deaths being reported out of Sierra Leone and Liberia, the West Africa outbreak nears 1,000 total cases and eclipsed 600 deaths, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa update Monday.

Image/CDC
Image/CDC

The UN health agency reports between 8 – 12 July 2014, 79 new cases, and 65 deaths were reported from Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In addition, while the outbreak appears to have declined in Guinea, they still reported  6 new cases and 3 deaths during the same period.

As of 12 July 2014, the cumulative number of cases attributed to EVD in the three countries stands at 964, including 603 deaths.

The distribution and classification of the cases are as follows: Guinea, 406 cases (297 confirmed, 92 probable, and 17 suspected) and 304 deaths (198 confirmed, 92 probable, and 14 suspected); Liberia, 172 cases (70 confirmed, 41 probable, and 61 suspected) and 105 deaths (48 confirmed, 33 probable, and 24 suspected); and Sierra Leone, 386 cases (339 confirmed, 37 probable, and 10 suspected) and 194 deaths (151 confirmed, 38 probable, and 5 suspected).

As a follow up action to the Emergency Ministerial meeting in Accra, the Regional Director, WHO African Region has taken a decision to re-deploy senior, technical, and support staff to the sub-regional coordination centre that is being established in Conakry, Guinea. The personnel re-assigned include a Director, Regional Advisors, epidemiologists, communication experts, social mobilization specialists, data managers, administrative officers, and other support staff. Preparation to establish the coordination centre is being finalized, with operations of the centre scheduled to be activated on 15 July 2014. The centre will act as a control and coordination platform,  consolidating and harmonizing the technical support to the West African countries including assisting in resource mobilization.

WHO is currently supporting the affected countries to strengthen contact tracing, as one of the most effective outbreak containment measures.  Early detection and prompt isolation of new EVD cases is requisite for interrupting secondary transmission of Ebola virus in the community. Therefore, WHO supported the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) of Liberia to identify and train 107 community volunteers and 33 supervisors. In Sierra Leone, a total of 296 community volunteers have been trained. The trained volunteers have been deployed in the affected communities to conduct contact tracing and ensure immediate evacuation of suspected EVD cases from the community. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90%. The illness affects humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has occurred through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

It is important to reduce contact with high-risk animals (i.e. fruit bats, monkeys or apes) including not picking up dead animals found lying in the forest or handling their raw meat.

Once a person comes into contact with an animal that has Ebola, it can spread within the community from human to human. Infection occurs from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people.

Infection can also occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient’s infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles.

Health workers have frequently been exposed to the virus when caring for Ebola patients. This happens because they are not wearing personal protection equipment, such as gloves, when caring for the patients, according to the WHO.

Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Persons who have died of Ebola must be handled using strong protective clothing and gloves, and be buried immediately. Looking for a job in health care? Check here to see what’s available