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August 5, 2014

Ebola outbreak in Africa claims nearly 900 lives

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Four African nations are fighting to contain the largest outbreak in history of Ebola, a virus with no official vaccine or treatment.

About 1,600 people have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Guinea since the outbreak began in February. More than 880 have died from the virus.

International aid workers from the Red Cross and other organizations have traveled to the affected areas to treat and contain the disease.

Two Americans have been infected with the virus: aid worker Dr. Kent Brantly and Christian missionary Nancy Writebol. Both have arrived at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to receive an experimental treatment for the virus.

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City is testing another American for Ebola, but the case is not confirmed.

Ebola is a virus that appeared in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, according to the World Health Organization. It spreads in human populations through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

Early symptoms of Ebola include fever and a sore throat. As it progresses, the virus can cause kidney and liver malfunction as well as internal and external bleeding.

The current outbreak was difficult to trace at the onset, according to Dr. Estrella Lasry, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. Experts believe it began in the forest region in Gueckedou in Guinea, later spreading to both rural and urban areas.

It is challenging to contain Ebola because its early symptoms are similar to many other viruses, making it hard to identify at the onset. People can also contract the virus while performing funeral rites for victims of the virus.

There is a relatively small risk of a large outbreak occurring in the U.S., according to health officials. Airports across the U.S. are on the lookout for travelers who show symptoms of the virus.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Sub-Saharan Africa?
  2. How are viruses different from other diseases? (Hint: think about how a doctor treats it)
Discussion questions
  1. Describe some of the challenges doctors are facing during this Ebola outbreak. What about patients?
  2. What is the international health community doing to try to help contain the outbreak? Do you agree with their approach?
Writing prompt

Imagine that you are a doctor working in Sierra Leone. Many of your patients live in rural communities and do not have regular transportation into town, so you go out into the country to visit them. Because of the recent outbreak of Ebola in the region, many of these communities are refusing to let anyone in or out for fear of spreading the disease. You know you can help curb the spread of the virus, but need access to the village. What arguments would you make to village guards blocking the road to convince them to let you pass? Make sure to back up your reasoning with evidence from the video and text.

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