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WHO declares Ebola epidemic a global emergency

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, August 8, 2014, 3:20 PM - The Ebola epidemic is an "extraordinary event" that represents an international emergency, the World Health Organization announced Friday.

Ebola has has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa so far, raising concerns about the spread of the disease.

"A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola," WHO said in a Friday statement following an emergency committee meeting.

"The outbreak is moving faster than we can control it," Margaret Chan, director-general at WHO, told reporters via telephone.

"The declaration ... will galvanize the attention of leaders of all countries at the top level. It cannot be done by the ministries of health alone."

WHO recommends that the four West African states hardest hit by the outbreak -- Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone -- declare national states of emergencies.

CAN EBOLA BE STOPPED?

Health officials are confident they can put an end to the outbreak.


RELATED: Why is Ebola so deadly?


"This is not a mysterious disease. This is an infectious disease that can be contained," Keiji Fukuda, WHO's head of health security, told reporters according to Reuters.

"It is not a virus that is spread through the air."

The health agency is advising governments take greater precautions to stop the spread of the disease, arguing that the best known tactics to control Ebola outbreaks -- i.e., hospital infection control, public awareness and tracking infected patients -- does not appear to be strictly enforced in some areas.

WHAT IS EBOLA?

The Ebola virus is a "severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 [percent]," WHO says on its website.

"It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care."

Health workers, family members of infected patients and people in close contact with sick or deceased patients are at the greatest risk of becoming infected.

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