Ebola spreading nine times faster than before in rural Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone: into the Ebola epicentre (Credit: Flickr)

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, Tuesday November 4, 2014 – As if to illustrate Ebola’s deadly unpredictability, cases of the killer virus are rising “frighteningly quickly” in parts of Sierra Leone, while appearing to be levelling off in Liberia.

The international campaign group Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) has found that in rural areas of Sierra Leone the disease is spreading nine times faster than was the case just two months ago.

And while the country’s rural areas are experiencing the biggest spike, AGI says that the spread of the virus is also swelling in the capital Freetown, which is recording six times more cases per day than obtained two months ago.

Ebola’s relentless grip has only started to loosen in one region of Sierra Leone, Bombali in the country’s north, according to a report in The Guardian Nigeria.

AGI’s findings came after World Health Organization (WHO) officials said that the number of new cases in Liberia was levelling off.

Last week, the UN Ebola coordinator Dr David Nabarro expressed cautious optimism about the apparent slowing of the rate of infection in Liberia, but cautioned that authorities “do not always have timely production of full data,” and warned that “reduction in the rate of increase does not mean that the outbreak is under control.”

AGI, which operates in the affected countries and was established by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, says it is not sure why cases are slowing in Liberia.

The international organisation nevertheless said that “burial management” had improved significantly in Liberia as well as Sierra Leone.

About half of all Ebola infections are thought to have derived from the bodies of victims, with corpses posing the greatest risk of infection shortly after death.

Commenting on the fluidity of the situation, AGI Chief Executive Nick Thompson said: “The picture is certainly changing but that’s all we can say for sure at the moment.

“The pace of the spread in rural Sierra Leone shows we still have no time to lose.”

More than 5,000 people are believed to have died in the current Ebola outbreak, with the majority of deaths occurring in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as to a lesser extent in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United States and Mali.

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