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World on alert as death toll from deadly virus hits 887

THE world is on alert as the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus continues to spread with the death toll now 887.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed in Sierra Leone and Liberia to fight the highly-contagious disease as three new suspected cases of the were reported in Nigeria.

With health care systems in the West Africa nations completely over-run by the epidemic, the African Development Bank said it would immediately disburse €37m to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - the countries worst affected - as part of an international effort to contain it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), which warned last week of catastrophic consequences if the disease were not controlled, reported 61 new deaths in the two days to August 1.

In Nigeria, the WHO reported three new cases, two of them probable and one suspected. Panic among local communities, which have attacked health workers and threatened to burn down isolation wards, prompted Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to close schools and quarantine the remote region hardest hit by the disease.

Long convoys of military trucks ferried troops and medical workers to Sierra Leone's far east, where the density of cases is highest.

In neighbouring Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and ministers held a crisis meeting to discuss a series of anti-Ebola measures as police contained infected communities in the northern Lofa county.

Police were setting up roadblocks for key entrance and exit points to those infected communities, with nobody allowed to leave quarantined communities.

Health workers say they are overwhelmed by the number of cases, a scenario exacerbated by the departure of some international staff following the infection of two US staff in Liberia.

One of them, Kent Brantly, was said to be improving after being flown back to the US for treatment.

The second staff member, Nancy Writebol, was expected to arrive back today.

Meanwhile, government agents at US airports are watching travellers from Africa for flu-like symptoms that could be tied to the recent Ebola outbreak, as delegations from some 50 countries arrive in the nation's capital for a leadership summit this week.

EXPOSURE

Border patrol agents at Washington's Dulles International and New York's JFK airports in particular have been told to ask travellers about possible exposure to the virus and to be on the lookout for anyone with a fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes.

Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which will receive several African heads of state, is screening passengers too, while US Secret Service agents in charge of security for the three-day summit have been briefed on what to look for and how to respond. If a passenger is suspected of carrying the deadly virus, they would be quarantined immediately.

"There is always the possibility that someone with an infectious disease can enter the United States," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said Monday. "The public health concern is whether it would spread, and, if so, how quickly.'"

hnews@herald.ie


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