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Sierra Leone, Liberia shut down for Ebola

Sierra Leone, Liberia shut down for Ebola
August 07
18:14 2014

The army blockaded rural areas hit by the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone on Thursday after neighbouring Liberia declared a state of emergency, according to a Reuters report.

Ebola has so killed 932 people in West Africa, the deadliest outbreak ever.

Worried Liberians queued at banks and stocked up on food in markets in Monrovia while others took buses to unaffected parts of the country after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the emergency powers lasting for 90 days late on Wednesday.

The state of emergency allows Liberia’s government to curtail civil rights and to deploy troops and police to impose quarantines on badly affected communities to try to contain an epidemic that has struck four west African nations.

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“Everyone is afraid this morning,” civil servant Cephus Togba told Reuters by telephone. “Big and small they are all panicking. Everyone is stocking up the little they have.”

With troops setting up checkpoints outside Monrovia on the way to some of the worst-hit towns, Johnson Sirleaf justified the measures by saying the state of emergency was necessary for “the very survival of our state and for the protection of the lives of our people”.

In Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO) experts were due to hold a second day of meetings to agree on emergency measures to tackle the highly contagious virus and whether to declare an international public health emergency.

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After a trial drug based on the tobacco plant was administered to two U.S. charity workers infected in Liberia, Ebola specialists have urged the WHO to offer Africans the chance to take such experimental drugs. The U.N. agency has asked medical ethics experts to explore this option next week.

Many in Liberia – a nation founded by the descendants of freed American slaves, whose capital is named after former U.S. President James Monroe – look to the United States in time of crisis, as the country did during a brutal 1989-2003 civil war that killed nearly a quarter of a million people.

“We need help from America. We need help,” said Nancy Poure, a small trader in the suburb of Johnsonville. “This is the beginning of hardship. Ninety days of fear and suffering.”

Among the most deadly diseases, Ebola kills up to 90% percent of those infected, causing internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting in its final stages.

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Discovered in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, near the Ebola river, it is believed to have been carried to the west of the continent by fruit bats, which are eaten as a delicacy in the region.

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