Ebola outbreak: Liberia suspends football

Medical staff working  prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at an Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone on 20 July 2014 Sierra Leone is one of the countries battling the outbreak

Liberia has suspended all football activities in an effort to control the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

There was a risk of infection because football is a contact sport, the football association said.

The number of people killed by the virus in West Africa has now reached 672, according to new UN figures.

A major regional airliner, Asky, said it had halted flights to the Liberian and Sierra Leonean capitals because of growing concerns about the virus.

It is the second airline company to take such a decision, following the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever.

Lift restrictions

Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, but patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.

It spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.

A banner creating awareness about Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia (28 July 2014) Liberia tied Independence Day celebrations on 26 July to efforts to create more awareness around Ebola
A Liberian man washes his hands as an extra precaution for the prevention of the spread of the Ebola virus before entering a church service in Monrovia, Liberia -27 July 2014 Greater emphasis is being placed on hygiene in an effort to contain the virus

The outbreak was first reported in Guinea in February. It then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Last week, Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, reported its first case - that of Liberian government employee Patrick Sawyer who flew to the main city, Lagos, in an Asky flight.

All officials who had direct or indirect contact with Mr Sawyer, 40, had been placed under "observatory surveillance" by health authorities, Liberia's finance ministry said.

Fifa trip in jeopardy

Mr Sawyer was a senior official in the ministry, and died in Lagos five days after arriving in the city.

Nigerian authorities have so far identified 59 people who came into contact with Mr Sawyer and have tested 20, Lagos State Health Commissioner Jide Idris is quoted by the Associated Press (AP) news agency as saying.

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Ebola since 1976
Graphic showing Ebola virus outbreaks since 1976
A map showing Ebola outbreaks since 1976
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The city's First Consultants Hospital, where Mr Sawyer was treated, has been temporary shut down for decontamination, Reuters news agency reports.

In a statement, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that 1,201 Ebola cases had been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Of the 672 deaths, the highest number was in Guinea with 319, followed by Sierra Leone with 224 and Liberia with 129, it said.

The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976

The BBC's Jonathan Paye Layleh in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, says that public awareness campaigns around Ebola have been stepped up following the death at the weekend of renowned Liberian doctor Samuel Brisbane.

Liberia's ex-football star George Weah has joined the campaign to create greater awareness.

"If one person gets affected, 100 persons will get affected, if 100 persons get affected, one million people will get affected," Mr Weah said.

Liberian Football Association President Musa Hassan Bility told the BBC that all football activity had been indefinitely suspend to protect players and fans.

"Football being a contact sport - people are sweating - they do contact each other, and that could result in contracting the disease," he said.

"It also has to do with the fans because whenever there is a game, a lot of people come together and we want to discourage gathering at this point."

Mr Bility said the association had written to football governing body Fifa, asking it to call off two visits to Liberia planned for August and September.

"We've asked Fifa to suspend both because we do not want the life of the Fifa president to be exposed to this disease," Mr Bility told the BBC.

Many people in Monrovia are worried about the outbreak, and fewer people are going to restaurants and entertainment centres, our reporter says.

Most border crossings in Liberia have been closed to contain the outbreak and affected communities are being quarantined.

Police had been deployed to Liberia's international airport to ensure passengers were screened for Ebola symptoms, our correspondent says.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)
Coloured transmission electron micro graph of a single Ebola virus, the cause of Ebola fever
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats are considered to be virus' natural host

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