Guinea Closes Border Over Ebola Outbreak As Death Toll Nears 1,000

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A day after the World Health Organization declared an international health emergency, Guinea closed its border due to the Ebola outbreak, which officials say is out of control in West Africa. Guinea government officials made the announcement on Saturday, saying the move will help curb the spread of the virus that has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the region. Guinea borders both Sierra Leone and Liberia — two nations that have also been devastated by the highly contagious virus.

"We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently," Health Minister Remy Lamah told reporters in a news conference, adding that the Liberian-Guinea border has also been sealed.

The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak is said to have begun in Guinea, where 367 deaths have been confirmed as of Aug. 6, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York Times reported that this latest outbreak, which is the largest Ebola crisis in history, can be traced to a 2-year-old boy in Guéckédou, a village in southeastern Guinea that borders both Sierra Leone and Liberia. The young boy reportedly passed the virus onto his family, and was subsequently contracted by other villagers, health care workers and a doctor.

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Although researchers believe Guinea was the ground zero for the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the deadly virus quickly spread to nearby Sierra Leone and Liberia, and those two nations are currently seeing a higher rate of infection. The virus has also been reported in Lagos, Nigeria, after Liberian-American government official Patrick Sawyer traveled there; Sawyer died in a Lagos hospital in late July.

The World Health Organization announced on Friday that four new Ebola cases have been reported in Nigeria. An WHO spokesperson told The Washington Post that all four individuals had direct contact with Sawyer, including a nurse who treated him and later died from the virus. Newly released stats from the WHO confirm that Nigeria now has 13 cases of Ebola, with two deaths; however, none of the Nigerian cases have been laboratory-confirmed.

In all, there were 68 new Ebola cases and 29 deaths between August 5 and 6, according to the WHO. The bulk of these new cases occurred in Sierra Leone and Liberia, while Guinea had no new cases and just four deaths. Still, Guinea currently has the highest Ebola death toll in the region, with 367 fatalities as of Wednesday.

WHO officials said a panel of health experts will convene on Monday, Aug. 11, to discuss the use of experimental Ebola medication. There is no known cure for the virus, which has a 50 to 90 percent fatality rate, and a vaccine is still being researched. Two American health care workers who contracted the virus in Liberia were given doses of an experimental serum, and their response to the medication has been hopeful, according to the WHO. However, supplies of these medications, which are still unapproved and relatively untested, are extremely limited.

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