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Sierra Leone President Announces State of Emergency due to Ebola

Update Date: Jul 31, 2014 09:26 AM EDT

The President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, has declared a state of emergency over Ebola, a viral illness that has been linked to a combined 672 deaths in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

In response to the declaration, troops will start to quarantine epicenters of Ebola in order to control the infection and prevent it from spreading to nearby areas, such as West Africa. So far, the virus has mostly remained in these three countries with one case confirmed in the Nigerian city called Lagos. The police and military will offer support to health officers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) so that they can carry out their work without any complications from local residents who have been attacking these workers.

The government will also carry out house-to-house searches so that officials can quickly quarantine areas where the virus might be present. Medical teams would examine these areas before they can be used again.

"Sierra Leone is in a great fight ... Failure is not an option," Koroma said in a speech reported by Reuters. "Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures."

"This is a major public health emergency. It's fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread," Lewis Brown, Liberia's information minister, added reported by FOX News. "We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get."

The U.S. Peace Corps also announced that it would be temporarily pulling out 340 volunteers from all three countries. Two of the volunteers had come into contact with an infected person who had died from the infection.

Ebola is a viral infection that is difficult to treat because it does not respond to the current, available antivirals. There is no cure or vaccine for the infection and the mortality rate can range from 50 to 90 percent. The rate for this outbreak is currently at 60 percent. Some of the symptoms of the illness include internal and external bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle pain, headache and rash.

The state of emergency will initially last from 60 to 90 days. Koroma stated that he would be meeting with the leaders from Liberia and Guinea in Conakry to address the current epidemic. He has also announced that he is cancelling his trip to the U.S.-Africa summit in Washington.

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