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Ebola Outbreak Tied to 59 Deaths so Far in Guinea

Update Date: Mar 24, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

UNICEF has reported that an Ebola outbreak in Guinea is responsible for at least 59 deaths so far. The Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) is a severe viral illness that causes symptoms such as fever, weakness, muscle pain, sore throat and headache followed by diarrhea, vomiting, rash, and impaired kidney and liver function. The virus is extremely dangerous and health officials are concern that the disease could spread rapidly to other southern communities within the West African nation.

"In Guinea, a country with a weak medical infrastructure, an outbreak like this can be devastating," the UNICEF representative in Guinea, Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya, said reported by CNN.

Symptoms of the virus were first observed last month. However, due to poor diagnosis, the disease was not identified until more recently. According to the country's health minister, Remy Lamah, tests conducted this past Saturday confirmed that EHF was indeed circulating the community. So far, 59 out of 80 people who have been infected with the virus have passed away. At least three of the cases occurred in children.

UNICEF is working on educating the medical staff and locals on how to avoid contracting the illness, which is transferred via close human-to-human contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids. So far, the country's health ministry believes that the virus is being transmitted from shared objects and from eating animal meat. The cases have been concentrated in the forest area of southern Guinea. People are recommended to wash their hands and to report all cases to the authorities.

The Medecins Sans Frontieres, which is an international medical charity, is sending in 33 tons of medicines and equipment. The charity is also planning on setting up isolation units in three specific areas.

"Isolation units are essential to prevent the spread of the disease, which is highly contagious," Dr. Esther Sterk, MSF tropical medicine adviser, said. "Specialized staff are providing care to patients showing signs of infection."

This is the first time an Ebola outbreak among humans has been detected in Guinea.

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