Governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other international groups are fighting an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
The Ebola outbreak had grown to 4,269 probable, confirmed and suspected cases by Sept. 6, WHO reported Sept. 8. At least 2,228 people have died from the disease. Ebola is considered widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria and Senegal have also reported cases.
The Sept. 8 WHO update said 49% of all confirmed, probable and suspected cases were reported in the previous 21 days. During the same period, 47% of all recorded deaths had occurred. The agency previously said a "major response" is needed to control the epidemic that will cost at least $600 million.
Ebola, which has no vaccine, kills between 25% and 90% of people who contract it, depending on the strain. It is transmitted via unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of symptomatic people or corpses. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. Eight outbreaks have occurred since the virus was discovered in 1976.
Sierra Leone will impose a three-day "lockdown" Sept. 19-21 across the country in an effort to halt the spread of Ebola. People will not be allowed to leave their homes during the three-day period. Presidential advisor Ben Kargbo said the move will also allow health workers to identify cases.
"Most fear the stigma and social rejection that come to patients and families when a diagnosis of Ebola is confirmed." World Health Organization
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a special alert Sept. 2 for the three countries most affected by the outbreak, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Prices have risen significantly due to trade disruptions while labor shortages have harmed harvests, the FAO said.
The African Union (AU) said Sept. 7 that attempts to prevent Ebola from spreading, such as border closures, are stigmatizing countries affected by the virus. The union said it would send more health workers to help combat the outbreak, but remained concerned about the high infection rates for such workers.
WHO said Sept. 8 that the Ebola outbreak in Liberia "is already intense and the number of new cases is increasing exponentially." The agency said it expects "many thousands of new cases" in Liberia over the next three weeks.
Christian nonprofit SIM USA announced Sept. 2 that one of its missionary doctors tested positive for Ebola. The doctor had not been working with Ebola patients, but rather with obstetrics patients in a separate building. He was the third American to be infected by the virus. A fourth arrived in Atlanta on Sept. 9.
Ebola victim William Pooley, the first British national known to contract the virus in the outbreak, was discharged from a UK hospital Sept. 3. He received the experimental drug ZMapp after contracting Ebola while working as a volunteer in Sierra Leone. Two Liberian doctors also survived after receiving the experimental drug.
Researchers say that current evidence indicates that "patient zero" was a two-year-old whose mother, sister and grandma also died of symptoms consistent with an Ebola infection, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It's currently unclear how the boy may have been infected.
Countries thousands of miles away from the nearest Ebola-affected communities are seeing a hit to their tourism industries. Uganda, South Africa, Kenya and elsewhere have seen cancelled international flights, unusually low occupancy rates in luxury hotels, and a drop in customers at restaurants and bars.
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