Sierra Leone authorities have imposed a three-day lockdown to curb the spread of Ebola, with the entire population ordered to stay at home.
There is a two-hour exemption on Friday to allow Muslim prayers and a 5-hour window for Christians on Sunday.
Volunteers are going door-to-door, looking for people with signs of the disease and reminding others how to stay safe.
Dozens of new cases are still being reported in Sierra Leone every week.
However, the three West African countries worst affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – have seen a steep reduction in infections in recent weeks.
This lockdown comes amidst some rare good news. According to official figures from the World Health Organization, there were just 33 new confirmed cases last week – the lowest number since June 2014.
With these falling figures there is danger of growing complacency, the government says.
This is one of the main reasons behind the lockdown – volunteers will remind people how to protect themselves against a virus that is still a real threat.
They will focus their efforts on northern and western areas where some infections still come as a surprise to officials – 16% of cases last week were not known Ebola contacts.
Experts have criticized previous stay-at-homes as too heavy-handed and top-down in their approach. Concerns were raised that some people did not have access to food.
The hope is, a year after the outbreak was declared, such logistical problems have been ironed out and that this measure will bring the country closer to its goal of zero Ebola infections by April 2015 – an ambitious target that is just two weeks away.
Ten US healthcare workers are being evacuated from Sierra Leone after another aid worker back from the West African country had tested positive for Ebola and was being treated in hospital near Washington DC.
The evacuees may have been in contact with the Ebola patient and are being flown back on non-commercial transport.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said none were currently showing Ebola symptoms.
They will stay in voluntary isolation for a 21-day incubation period. If any start to show symptoms they will be taken to one of three hospitals which are equipped to deal with Ebola cases.
On March 13, the CDC sent a team to Sierra Leone to investigate how the healthcare worker became exposed and determine who might have been in contact with the infected person.
The patient is being treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.
It is the 11th person with the deadly virus to be treated in the US.
More than 10,000 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak.
A number of bodies have been discovered by health officials in Kono, a remote diamond-mining area of Sierra Leone, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said they uncovered a “grim scene” in the eastern district of Kono.
A WHO response team had been sent to Kono to investigate a sharp rise in Ebola cases.
Ebola has killed 6,346 people in West Africa, with more than 17,800 infected.
Sierra Leone has the highest number of Ebola cases in West Africa, with 7,897 cases since the beginning of the outbreak.
The WHO said in a statement on December 10 that over 11 days in Kono, “two teams buried 87 bodies, including a nurse, an ambulance driver, and a janitor drafted into removing bodies as they piled up”.
Bodies of Ebola victims are highly infectious and safe burials are crucial in preventing the transmission of the disease.
The response team also found 25 people who had died in the past five days piled up in a cordoned section of the local hospital.
Dr. Olu Olushayo, a member of the WHO’s Ebola response team, said: “Our team met heroic doctors and nurses at their wits’ end, exhausted burial teams and lab techs, all doing the best they could but they simply ran out of resources and were overrun with gravely ill people.”
Health officials are worried that many of the Ebola cases in Kono have gone unreported until now.
“We are only seeing the ears of the hippo,” said Dr Amara Jambai, Sierra Leone’s Director of Disease Prevention and Control.
The district of more than 350,000 inhabitants had reported 119 cases up to December 9.
Authorities in Sierra Leone have decided to put Kono district on “lockdown” from 10 to 23 December to try and contain the outbreak.
During the lockdown, no-one will be able to enter or leave the district but they can move around freely within it.
Health workers treating Ebola patients at a clinic in Sierra Leone have gone on strike, protesting about the government’s failure to pay an agreed weekly $100 “hazard payment”.
The staff includes more than 400 nurses, porters and cleaners.
The clinic, in Bandajuma near Bo, is the only Ebola treatment centre in southern Sierra Leone.
In Mali, a nurse and the patient he was treating earlier became the second and third people to die from Ebola there.
Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency.
The Bandajuma clinic is run by medical charity MSF, which said it would be forced to close the facility if the strike continued.
About 60 patients had been left unattended because of the strike at the clinic in Bandajuma.
There are international staff at the clinic but they are unable to keep the clinic open on their own.
The staff, who are protesting outside the clinic, say the government agreed to the “hazard payments” when the facility was established but has failed to make any payments since September.
The money was due to be paid in addition to salaries the staff receive from MSF.
Earlier, the Malian authorities confirmed that a nurse and the patient he was treating at a clinic in Bamako had died.
The patient, a traditional Muslim healer in his 50s, had recently arrived from Guinea.
The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976.
Ebola was first identified in Guinea in March, before it spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. The WHO says there are now more than 13,240 confirmed, suspected and probable cases, almost all in these countries.
Leading charity Save the Children has warned that a rate of five new Ebola cases an hour in Sierra Leone means healthcare demands are far outstripping supply.
Save the Children said there were 765 new cases of Ebola reported in Sierra Leone last week, while there are only 327 beds in the country.
Experts and politicians are set to meet in London to debate a global response to the Ebola outbreak crisis.
It is the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, killing 3,338 people so far.
There have been 7,178 confirmed cases, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea suffering the most.
Save the Children says Ebola is spreading across Sierra Leone at a “terrifying rate”, with the number of new cases being recorded doubling every few weeks.
It said that even as health authorities got on top of the outbreak in one area, it spread to another.
Ebola is spreading across Sierra Leone at a terrifying rate, with the number of new cases being recorded doubling every few weeks
The scale of the disease is also “massively unreported” according to the charity, because “untold numbers of children are dying anonymously at home or in the streets”.
Earlier this month, Britain said it would build facilities for 700 new beds in Sierra Leone but the first of these will not be ready for weeks, and the rest may take months.
Save the Children said that unless the international community radically stepped up its response, people would continue to die at home and risk infecting their family and the local community.
“We are facing the frightening prospect of an epidemic which is spreading like wildfire across Sierra Leone, with the number of new cases doubling every three weeks,” said Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children’s country director in Sierra Leone.
Safety trials for two experimental vaccines are under way in the UK and US, the WHO said on Wednesday, and will be expanded to 10 sites in Africa, Europe and North America in the coming weeks.
It said it expected to begin small-scale use of the experimental vaccines in West Africa early next year.
The Ebola Donors Conference in London on October 2 is being hosted by the UK and Sierra Leone governments. Its main agenda is to discuss what the global community can do to provide an effective international response to the epidemic.
It will be chaired by UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who said he hoped it would “raise even greater awareness of the disease and what is needed to contain it, encourage ambitious pledges and show our solidarity with Sierra Leone and the region.”
Sierra Leone has widened the Ebola quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.
President Ernest Bai Koroma has announced that northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south will be sealed off immediately.
Nearly 600 people have died of the virus in Sierra Leone where two eastern districts are already blockaded.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has said the world needs to act faster to halt the West Africa Ebola outbreak.
“There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be,” Barack Obama told a high-level United Nations meeting on Ebola.
2,917 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea worst affected, according to new figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
President Ernest Bai Koroma’s announcement follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.
Sierra Leone has widened the Ebola quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease (photo AP)
Two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.
During Sierra Leone’s three-day curfew, more than a million households were surveyed and 130 new cases discovered, the authorities say.
President Ernest Bai Koroma said the move had been a success but had exposed “areas of greater challenges”, which was why other areas were being quarantined.
Only people delivering essential services can enter and circulate within areas under quarantine.
In a televised address, the president acknowledged that the blockade would “pose great difficulties” for people.
“[But] the life of everyone and the survival of our country take precedence over these difficulties,” he said.
According to WHO, the situation nationally in Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate with a sharp increase in the number of newly reported cases in the capital, Freetown, and its neighboring districts of Port Loko, Bombali, and Moyamba, which are now under quarantine.
The WHO said despite efforts to deploy more health workers and open new Ebola treatment centers in the worst-affected countries, there was still a significant lack of beds in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with more than 2,000 needed.
The situation in Guinea had appeared to be stabilizing, but with up to 100 new confirmed cases reported in each of the past five weeks, it was still of grave concern, it said.
A three-day lockdown has come into effect in Sierra Leone in a bid to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.
The aim of the move is to keep people confined to their homes while health workers isolate new cases and prevent Ebola from spreading further.
Critics say the lockdown will destroy trust between doctors and the public.
Sierra Leona is one of the countries worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 2,600 people.
The UN Security Council on Thursday declared the outbreak a “threat to international peace and security”.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to provide more resources to combat it.
A three-day lockdown has come into effect in Sierra Leone in a bid to stop the spread of the Ebola virus (photo Reuters)
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been strongly critical of the lockdown, arguing that ultimately it will help spread the disease.
MSF, whose staff is helping to tackle the outbreak, said in a statement this month that quarantines and lockdowns “end up driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers”.
“This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.”
But the authorities insist that the measure “will minimize the spread of the virus”, and that thousands of officials would be deployed to make sure residents stayed indoors.
Volunteers will go door-to-door to test people for the virus and take infected people to treatment centers.
The Ebola virus infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.
It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.
A second senior doctor in Sierra Leone, Modupeh Cole, was confirmed dead from Ebola on Wednesday as West Africa anxiously awaited the arrival of experimental drugs to tackle the deadliest-ever outbreak of the virus.
Sierre Leone‘s chief medical officer Brima Kargbo said Modupeh Cole, a senior physician in the capital Freetown, had been “instrumental in the fight against the Ebola virus”.
Modupeh Cole’s death came only a fortnight after the country’s only virologist and leading Ebola expert, Umar Khan, succumbed to the tropical disease.
A second senior doctor in Sierra Leone was confirmed dead from Ebola (photo Reuters)
Another of the worst-hit countries, Liberia, is scrambling to save two of its own infected doctors and hopes an experimental serum from the US will arrive in time.
The presidency said Tuesday it had received approval from the FDA for the use of a barely-tested ZMapp treatment that has shown positive early results.
The two infected doctors have given their written consent to try the drug, which will be delivered to the country within 48 hours. A third doctor has already died from the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Tuesday it was ethical to try largely untested treatments “in the special circumstances of this Ebola outbreak”.
The company behind ZMapp said it had sent all its available supplies to the region following an outcry over the fact it had so far only been used on Westerners, but supplies are extremely limited.
A Saudi man who was suspected of contracting Ebola disease in Sierra Leone has died at a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry says.
If confirmed, this would be the first Ebola-related death outside Africa in an outbreak that has killed more than 900 people this year.
The man recently visited Sierra Leone, one of four countries in the outbreak.
World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak.
The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency.
Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, is one of the deadliest diseases known to humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90%.
The Ebola virus spreads by contact with infected blood and bodily fluids
A WHO statement on Wednesday said 932 patients had died of the disease in West Africa so far, with most of the latest fatalities reported in Liberia.
Concern has also been growing over a number of new cases in Nigeria, the region’s most populous nation. On Wednesday, a nurse who treated an Ebola patient became the second person to die of the disease there.
Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu described the outbreak as a national emergency, adding that “everyone in the world is at risk” because of air travel.
The Saudi man who was suspected of contracting the disease died of cardiac arrest, according to the website of the country’s health ministry.
The 40-year-old is said to have returned from a recent business trip to Sierra Leone.
The ministry’s website said he was being tested for Ebola, but did not say if the tests had concluded that he had the disease.
The website said the man had been treated for Ebola-like symptoms in an isolation ward and would be buried according to Islamic tradition, while following precautions set out by world health authorities.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas to Muslims from several West African countries, amid concerns that visiting pilgrims could spread the disease.
Meanwhile, two US aid workers – Dr. Kent Brantly and Nurse Nancy Writebol – who contracted Ebola in Liberia appear to be improving after receiving an unapproved medicine ahead of their evacuation back to the US.
t is not clear if the ZMapp drug, which has only been tested on monkeys, can be credited with their improvement.
Leading infectious disease experts have called for experimental treatments to be offered more widely.
The meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee is focusing solely on how to respond to the Ebola outbreak.
If a public health emergency is declared, it could involve detailed plans to identify, isolate and treat cases, as well as impose travel restrictions on affected areas.