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Ebola 2014: Death toll, new cases on the rise in Africa

By Sara Cheshire, Special to CNN
updated 3:57 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • As of July 12, a total of 603 deaths from Ebola have been reported
  • The WHO is sending senior disease specialists to Guinea's capital
  • The Ebola outbreak was first documented in March, and has been spreading since

(CNN) -- High numbers of new Ebola cases and deaths in Africa are prompting increased efforts to contain the deadly outbreak.

As of July 12, the cumulative number of Ebola virus cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was at 964, including 603 deaths. The death toll has almost doubled in a month's time; reported deaths in the three countries in mid-June was 350.

A coordination center is being established in Conakry, Guinea, where the World Health Organization is sending epidemiologists, communications experts and other support staff. Trained volunteers are also helping officials find possible cases and isolate infected individuals.

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The Ebola outbreak in Guinea was first reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March. By the end of the month, UNICEF said at least 59 out of 80 people who contracted Ebola there had died. In April, the outbreak spread to Conakry, Guinea's capital, and to neighboring countries Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola typically kills 90% of those infected with the virus, but the death rate in this outbreak has dropped to roughly 60% thanks to early treatment.

Officials believe that the Ebola outbreak has taken such a strong hold in West Africa due to the proximity of the jungle --where the virus originated -- to Conakry, which has a population of 2 million. Since symptoms don't immediately appear, the virus can easily spread as people travel around the region. Once the virus takes hold, many die in an average of 10 days as the blood fails to clot and hemorrhaging occurs.

What you need to know about Ebola

The disease isn't contagious until symptoms appear. Symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue. At that point, the Ebola virus is spread via bodily fluids.

The CDC says this particular outbreak is challenging to contain due to weak healthcare infrastructures and community mistrust and resistance in the affected countries. It is the first time a major outbreak of the virus has been seen in West Africa, which aids in the confusion and fear over the current situation, the WHO said on its website.

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