Ebola crisis: New cases declining in West Africa

MSF Ebola workers in Sierra Leone Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ebola patients who make it to hospital facilities have a much better chance of survival

New Ebola cases in the three West African countries worst affected by the deadly outbreak of the virus are declining, weekly UN figures show.

Sierra Leone and Guinea both recorded the lowest weekly total of confirmed Ebola cases since August.

Liberia, which reported no new cases on two days last week, had its lowest weekly total since June.

The death toll from the world's worst Ebola outbreak has reached 8,429 with 21,296 cases so far.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone now all have sufficient capacity to bury all the people known to have died from Ebola.

But it said under-reporting of deaths meant that not all burials were being done safely.

Schools to open

While cases were decreasing in Sierra Leone, it remained the worst-affected country, with western areas still reporting the most new transmissions, the WHO said.

Last week, there were 59 new reported cases in the capital, Freetown.

At the scene: Umaru Fofana, BBC Africa, Sierra Leone

Image copyright AFP

The spirit of Freetown seems to be back with residents in the capital celebrating, albeit quietly, the low Ebola infection figures. For over a week the reported daily infections have been in single figures and on Tuesday there were only two deaths.

Like Premier League football fans, people converge at internet cafes and street corners to follow the daily updates. The usually grim faces are now grinning. The ubiquitous blaring of ambulance sirens has also reduced considerably. In fact, the national daily infection rate is around 20 - in November it was 60.

"Ebola is in trouble," says Ahmed Turay, a teenager who has not been to classes since July. "I look forward to returning to school," he says, smiling broadly.

The eastern district of Kailahun, which first recorded Ebola eight months ago, has had no cases for 35 days and the other former hotspot of Kenema has had only four cases since November. But the authorities are warning all to exercise caution, insisting Ebola is still here.

Meanwhile, in Guinea it has been announced that schools and universities are to reopen next Monday after a five-month closure because of Ebola.

The BBC's Alhassan Sillah in Guinea says the authorities there are also stepping up Ebola information campaigns as in some areas people are still suspicious of official attempts to fight the disease.

Over the weekend, two policemen were killed by villagers who feared they had brought Ebola to the western district of Forecariah.

Earlier this month, the outgoing head of the UN team fighting Ebola, Anthony Banbury, said he believed cases of the virus would be brought down to zero by the end of 2015.

Image copyright Reuters

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host

Ebola basics: What you need to know

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