Ebola Death Toll Almost 900

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has jumped to nearly 900, with dozens of new fatalities reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization released new figures Monday as authorities in Nigeria reported the country's second confirmed case of Ebola -- a doctor who treated the first patient, who died July 25 in Lagos.

The WHO says the total number of cases across four West African countries stands at 1,603, including 887 people who have died.

◆ Nigeria Confirms 2nd Case

Meanwhile, a second person has been diagnosed with Ebola in Nigeria, officials say, after a Liberian-American man with the disease died in Nigeria less than two weeks ago. Eight other people are being quarantined and three are awaiting test results.

The Nigerian government says it is increasing health screenings at airports and international land borders after tests confirmed over the weekend that a Nigerian doctor has Ebola.

The Lagos doctor cared for Patrick Sawyer, a Nigerian-American finance consultant who traveled to Nigeria through Ghana and Togo, collapsing when he arrived in Lagos. He was immediately isolated and died from Ebola July 25. The sick doctor is currently being treated in isolation.

◆ Border Closings

Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu says the government reassessing calls to close some Nigerian borders on a daily basis.

"Regarding the issue of whether we should close our border: We still maintain that for now we are not doing that for a number of reasons. But if it becomes necessary we will do that," he said.

So far the outbreak in Nigeria appears to be relatively contained, with one death and symptoms now showing in eight currently-isolated health workers that contacted Sawyer directly.

Chukwu says the body of a person discovered in a morgue last week that was suspected to have died of Ebola before he was flown into Nigeria is currently being tested for Ebola.  He says Nigeria has moved to stop the import of bodies for burial from countries that have Ebola.

"They should not bring back corpses from the three countries that have the greatest number of cases," Chukwu stressed. "They should not bring back dead bodies. It's better that dead bodies are buried where they've had issues. Except where it is clear from the death certificate that it is not Ebola."

◆ Among World's Most Contagious

Ebola is one of the world's most contagious diseases with up to a 90 percent death rate and it remains contagious to others after you die. Doctors attribute the current 60 percent death rate to early treatment.

Humans get Ebola from handling or eating wild animals, like primates or bats, and then people spread it to others through contact with bodily fluids.

And although doctors say it is not commonly spread through casual contact, officials fear that the growing number of patients and the shrinking number of aid workers in West Africa increases the threat of the disease.

◆ U.S. Sending Experts to Help with Ebola Effort

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is sending 50 public health experts to help three West African nations battling Ebola.

The experts are scheduled to arrive in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by the end of the month.

Last week, the World Health Organization announced a $100 million emergency plan in conjunction with the three affected countries that includes a strengthening of control and response measures. A WHO spokesman said some 600 specialists would be needed to carry out the plan.

More than 2,000 volunteers from the International Red Cross Federation have been working in all three countries since the outbreak began.

◆ American Doctor Receiving Treatment in Georgia

Meanwhile, an American doctor who contracted the virus while treating patients in Liberia returned home Saturday and is being treated in isolation at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Christian charity Samaritan's Purse says Dr. Kent Brantly received a dose of an experimental serum before leaving Liberia, and also received blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola under his care.

Another U.S. missionary who contracted the disease in Liberia, Nancy Writebol, is expected to fly on Tuesday to Atlanta. She will also be treated at Emory.

◆ No Cure, Vaccine Under Development

While there is currently no cure or vaccine for Ebola, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said a vaccine is being developed and could soon go to trial. Fauci spoke Monday on the TV program CBS "This Morning."

Tom Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, says a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the U.S. not likely, citing better infection controls at American hospitals and more cautious burial procedures than in Africa.

VOA News / Aug. 05, 2014 08:05 KST