Some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an
Ebola virus virion is shown in this colourised transmission
electron micrograph. REUTERS/Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC
West African leaders have agreed to take stronger
measures to try to bring the worst outbreak of Ebola under
control and prevent it spreading outside the region, including
steps to isolate rural communities ravaged by the disease.
The World Health Organisation and medical charity Medicins
Sans Frontieres said on Friday (local time) the outbreak,
which has killed 729 people in four West African countries,
was out of control and more resources were urgently needed to
deal with it.
WHO chief Margaret Chan told a meeting of the presidents of
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - the countries worst
affected - that the epidemic was outpacing efforts to contain
it and warned of catastrophic consequences in lost lives and
economic distruption if the situation were allowed to
"The presidents recognise the serious nature of the Ebola
outbreak in their countries," Chan said after the meeting.
"They are determined to take extraordinary measures to stop
Ebola in their countries."
In a communique after their talks, the leaders agreed to
deploy security forces to isolate the frontier regions where
70 percent of the 1,323 cases have been detected.
They banned the transportation of anyone showings signs of
disease across borders, and pledged to introduce strict
controls at international airports to prevent the virus
spreading outside the region.
There was international alarm last week when a U.S. citizen
died of Ebola in Nigeria - Africa's most populous country -
after flying there from Liberia. Two people quarantined in
Lagos after coming into contact with him were released on
Friday after they tested negative for the disease.
The three leaders also agreed to step up efforts to protect
local healthcare workers and encourage them to return to
With healthcare systems struggling to cope with the highly
infectious disease, which requires rigorous precautions to
stop it spreading, more than 60 medical workers have lost
their lives, hampering efforts to tackle the outbreak.
Liberia has already put in place tough measures including
closing all schools and some government departments. Sierra
Leone on Wednesday declared a state of emergency and called
in troops to isolate Ebola victims.
However, Friday's agreement marked a reversal by Guinea,
which had previously resisted taking tough steps, saying the
disease was under control there.
"Somewhat drastic measures will be taken," Guinea's
Cooperation Minister Moustapha Koutoub Sano said. "These
(border) prefectures and communities will be isolated."
The outbreak has prompted some international organisations to
withdraw. The U.S. Peace Corps has said it was withdrawing
340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
U.S. aid group Samaritans Purse said on Friday it would
complete the evacuation of its 60 international staff from
Liberia over the weekend. It said two American staff who
contracted the disease in Liberia were in a serious condition
and would be medically evacuated by early next week.
Charity WaterAid said on Friday it was suspending its
operations in Liberia as well.
The WHO is launching a $100 million response plan and the
United States is providing material and technical support to
the three countries. Further assistance will be discussed at
a U.S.-Africa summit in Washington next week.
Guinea President Alpha Conde told Reuters he would represent
Africa in those Ebola talks. Sierra Leonean President Ernest
Bai Koroma and Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced this
week they would remain at home to tackle the crisis.
Chan appealed on Friday to the wider world to provide more
medical experts and funding. She pledged to take personal
responsibility for coordinating international response
efforts and mobilising the vast support needed to fight the
virus, which can kill up to 90 percent of those infected.
The fatality rate in this epidemic is about 60 percent.
The WHO has convened an emergency committee on Aug. 6-7 to
decide if the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency
of international concern and to recommend measures to tackle
"The demands created by Ebola in West Africa outstrip your
capacities to respond," Chan told the presidents.
Chan said cultural practices such as traditional burials and
deep-seated beliefs were a significant cause of the spread
and needed to change. In the final stages, its symptoms
include external and internal bleeding, vomiting and
diarrhoea - at which point Ebola becomes highly contagious.
On Friday, the government of southeastern Nigeria's Anambra
state quarantined a mortuary containing the body of a
Nigerian man who died in Liberia while tests were conducted
to determine the caused of death.