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West Africa on alert as Guinea declares Ebola epidemic
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West Africa on alert as Guinea declares Ebola epidemic

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DAKAR, Senegal — Guinea has officially declared it has an Ebola epidemic after at least three people have died and four others have been infected in the West African nation.

Neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia have put their citizens on high alert as the three West African nations battled the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016, which began in Guinea and in which more than 11,300 people died.

Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio has flown to consult with Guinean President Alpha Conde.

Guinea's new Ebola outbreak occurred in N'Zerekore, in southern Guinea, where health officials detected suspicious cases of Ebola with patients presenting symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. The sick had participated in the burial of a nurse on Feb. 1 in Gouake, according to Guinea's Minister of Health Remy Lamah, who added that the first investigation counted seven cases, all of people over the age of 25 years, including the two women and one male who have died.

Guinea Ebola

In this Nov. 20, 2014, file photo, a health worker is sprayed as he leaves the contaminated zone at the Ebola treatment center in Gueckedou, Guinea. Guinea has officially declared another Ebola epidemic after at least three people have died and others have been infected in the West African nation.

The epidemic was declared after a crisis meeting Sunday. All suspected cases have been isolated in N'Zerekore and Conakry, the capital. Investigations have begun, a treatment center has opened and supplies have been sent to the region.

Traditional funerals in which people wash and touch the body of the deceased facilitate the spread of Ebola. It usually jumps to humans from infected animals, such as bats, and then spreads between humans via direct contact with bodily fluids.

Liberia's president George Weah has mandated health authorities "to heighten the country's epi-surveillance and preventative activities" and also ordered health officials to "immediately engage communities in towns and villages bordering Guinea and increase anti-Ebola measures."

Sierra Leone has activated emergency response systems and heightened surveillance for Ebola at the already closed border with Guinea, it said.

International humanitarian and medical organizations are also racing to help prevent further spread of the virus.

The World Health Organization has said it is working to be sure that vaccines developed during the 2014 to 2016 outbreak will be readily available as quickly as possible. Last month the World Health Organization said it was creating a global emergency stockpile of about 500,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine to help stamp out future outbreaks, but only 7,000 were available at the time of the statement. The Ebola vaccine being stockpiled is made by Merck.

From August 2018 to June 2020, the African nation of Congo had an Ebola outbreak. It was the second biggest outbreak behind the 2014-16 one in West Africa. Here's a look back in photos:

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