By Glynn Cosker
Editor, In Homeland Security
Figures released Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal that the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now responsible for close to 5,000 deaths.
According to WHO, the official death toll sits at 4,950 fatalities from the 13,241 cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The statement from WHO also indicated a decline of the disease in some districts of each afflicted country, while some other districts were registering a large increase of new cases. The statistics show that two-thirds of all new diagnoses over the last three weeks occurred in Sierra Leone.
The WHO report points to burial practices in Sierra Leone as the reason for the country’s upswing in cases. In West African traditional funerals, it’s customary for friends and family members to touch their deceased loved one. However, Ebola is most contagious in the first hours after death, so the Red Cross is attempting to educate the locals of the risks.
Altering the funeral process was a successful tact in Liberia, where the Red Cross focused its recent efforts. In that nation’s capital city of Monrovia, the delay between death and burial was decreased from 72 hours to 24 hours—shortening the time in which the body was handled.
The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is the worst ever since the disease was discovered in 1976.
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