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What is the Ebola virus outbreak?

The West Africa Ebola outbreak, which began in March 2014, is the worst outbreak of the virus in recorded history and affects Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for the disease, which kills between 25 – 90 per cent of victims, depending on the strain of the virus.

The number of cases keeps increasing in the three countries at the heart of the outbreak – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – and with suspected cases in new countries and a confirmed spread to Nigeria.

As of September 23, 2014, more than 2,800 people have died and more than 5,800 cases have been reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). August saw a sudden peak in cases and in the first two weeks of September, 909

deaths had been recorded across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The Canadian Red Cross has mobilized aid workers specializing in health and disaster response to the region to support response operations in affected communities. Canadians wishing to support the Red Cross response in West Africa can make a financial donation to the West Africa Ebola Fund online.

What is the Ebola virus?

Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal illness - outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Outbreaks occur predominately in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests.

The first incidence of Ebola was in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks: in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo close to the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name. The origin of the virus is unknown. This is the first time the disease has appeared in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

The sudden increase in cases cannot be explained by a single reason. The symptoms resemble those of other more common diseases and it’s therefore hard to identify Ebola.

West Africa Ebola: Red Cross is there

The Red Cross is actively responding to the outbreak  and is encouraging people to seek medical treatment if they display the symptoms of Ebola.

The Red Cross response includes four critical activities:

Clinical Management: 

To control and contain the spread of Ebola, time is of the essence. The Red Cross has set up an Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone to support the clinical management of Ebola, but our biggest challenge is quickly expanding the capacity of volunteers, staff and international delegates. Increased funding is urgently required to ensure appropriate levels of equipment and personnel. Any delays in response may increase risk of exposure and impact the security of the people involved in the Ebola response.

Care for the Deceased: 

Unfortunately, after someone has died from Ebola, the viral load is at its highest and bodies are the most contagious. Red Cross volunteers are raising awareness in communities and helping families on how to safely bury their loved ones to prevent further infection.

Contact Tracing and Monitoring: 

Once someone contracts Ebola, the Red Cross volunteers search for those who have been in contact with the infected individual so they can be monitored for infection and treated quickly if they become sick.

Education and Social Mobilization: 

The Red Cross is working around the clock to spread  life-saving messages about this deadly disease in an effort to reduce fear and stigma associated with Ebola. Volunteers are also supporting both survivors of Ebola and their families as well as helping to change attitudes to ensure both survivors and health workers are accepted in the community.

How you can help: Donate to the West Africa Ebola Fund

Ebola continues its alarming spread, leaving behind heartbroken survivors and countless orphans. Medical supplies and protective equipment need replenishing. More volunteers and medical workers are needed. Stopping this spread requires funds. We call on Canadians to help us save lives by making a financial donation to the West Africa Ebola Fund.
 
The Canadian Red Cross has mobilized aid workers specializing in health and disaster response to the region to support response operations in affected communities. Funding is crucial to ensure direct action can be taken to stop the spread of the epidemic. You can help. Donate today.