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Deadly Disease
Ebola Outbreak Worsens in West Africa

West African governments have been trying bring a killer disease to heel, but sadly with little success. The Ebola virus outbreak in the region saw an alarming surge at the end of last month, with 37 new cases and 21 deaths reported in Guinea between May 29 and June 1, says the World Health Organization. The total number of cases in the country climbed to 328, while the dead number 208. So far, 193 cases have been confirmed by laboratories. Sierra Leone also reported 13 new cases, of which three have been confirmed.

The spike in cases has doctors worried because the outbreak is so scattered, reports Voice of America:

Bart Janssens, director of operations for MSF, said the geographical spread of the disease in Guinea is a problem.

“It clearly indicates that the epidemic is not at all under control as we might have hoped one or two weeks ago, when we really saw cases continually going down over time,” Janssens said. […]

The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and the virus can be transmitted even after that person dies. Health workers said families moving bodies for funerals have been a factor in the spread of the disease.

Officials from Guinea had previously claimed they had the outbreak under control. But the scourge is troublingly persistent, and a threat not only to locals’ health but also, indirectly, to their livelihood. Bloomberg reports that UK companies with mines in Sierra Leone have seen their stock fall as they put travel restrictions in place for their workers. The mines have not shut down operations as of yet, but are screening workers in order to detect signs of fever.

Even as Guinea suffers, there has been some welcome news for its economy. The country is slated to be the site of a massive mining project that could double its GDP, and the plan is now proceeding after long delays. However, it’s not hard to imagine that a future disease outbreak, of Ebola or some other epidemic, could cause serious setbacks for this endeavor. It’s important to remember that disease control in developing countries smooths the way for foreign investment, and for changes in economic fortune.

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