Ebola outbreak in west Africa

25 July 2014

Ebola virus

Credit: CDC Cynthia Goldsmith

Thousands of people have died from the deadly Ebola virus in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Our partners are on the ground, helping communities to protect themselves.

Please help us respond to the ebola outbreak >>

An outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease has hit communities in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. By 21st November, the World Health Organisation estimated that more than 15,000 people have been infected, and more than 5,000 people have died, making it the largest outbreak ever known.

Ebola is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

People who are infected with Ebola have a 40% chance of survival - in many cases less, given the low levels of health services available in the rural areas which have been most heavily affected. 

There is no vaccine and no known cure, but by following a few key practises, the spread of Ebola can be relatively easily stopped.

CAFOD’s Catherine Mahony says: “One reason that the virus has spread so extensively is a widespread fear and lack of trust in the advice given on Ebola prevention. Many people don’t have access to reliable information, and high death rates and stigmatisation make people afraid to take their loved ones to hospitals, if medical facilities are even available.

“While rumours abound, the disease rages on. Cases are now being reported in towns and cities in all three countries.”

We are working with our partners to ensure that the right messages get to the most vulnerable people through community leaders they trust. In Sierra Leone we have launched a programme of training and sensitisation for religious leaders, which will empower them with information that they can share widely in remote rural areas. A similar programme is already underway in Guinea, where the outbreak is now stabilising. 

Catherine Mahony says: “The network of churches and mosques are able to reach deep into communities, providing reassurance and guidance. Religious leaders are in a unique position to bust myths and ensure that communities take the right action to stop the spread of this appalling disease.”

We are taking careful measures to ensure our staff and partners are protected as they undertake their lifesaving work. 

Donate to CAFOD's Ebola crisis appeal >> 

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