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Ebola outbreak kills 603 in West Africa

 
 
 
 
 
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Health workers putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea on June 28, 2014.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 603.

The UN health agency said on Tuesday that officials recorded 85 new cases, including 68 fatal, from July 8-12.

Some 52 fatalities were reported in Sierra Leone, 13 in Liberia and three in Guinea, the international body also said, adding that the overall number of laboratory-confirmed, probable or suspected cases of the illness in the region has jumped to 964.

“We still have a high level of transmission taking place into the communities,” said WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein.

Guinea is the worst-hit country, it has recorded 406 cases and 304 deaths since the outbreak began in January. Liberia has announced172 cases and 105 deaths, while Sierra Leone reported 386 cases, 194 of them fatal.

“It’s very difficult for us to get into communities where there is hostility to outsiders. We still face rumors, and suspicion and hostility…. People are isolated, they’re afraid, they’re scared,” Epstein added.

There is currently no known cure for Ebola, a form of hemorrhagic fever whose symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding.

The virus spreads through direct contact with infected blood, feces or sweat. It can also be spread through sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

Ebola was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 in an outbreak that killed 280 people.

It remains one of the world’s most virulent diseases, which kills between 25 to 90 percent of those who fall sick.

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