(NaturalNews) A total of 18 people potentially exposed to the Ebola virus while working in Africa have been sent back to the United States for health monitoring, news media have reported.
All or nearly all of the people exposed were working for the nonprofit Partners in Health, which has been working to help end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. When one of the healthcare workers contracted the disease, the others were potentially exposed while helping care for him before he was sent back to the United States for treatment.
The infected healthcare worker is currently in critical condition. None of the other 17 workers have tested positive for the virus.
CDC “investigating” how many have been exposed
More than 24,000 people have been infected, and more than 10,000 killed in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst that the world has ever seen. The disease is generally spread through contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, or through contact with their bodies after death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is still unclear how many Partners in Health workers were exposed to Ebola.
“We’re still investigating and hopefully we’ll have an answer to that question,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. “The circumstances around all these exposures is what we are looking at right now.”
For a time, it looked like the rate of Ebola infection in West Africa was slowing. However, on March 17 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 150 new cases of the disease in the prior week, compared with just 116 the week before. Of these, 95 came from Guinea and 55 from Sierra Leone.
The numbers for Guinea are the worst this year so far. The numbers for Sierra Leone, however, are the lowest since last June and reflect “tremendous progress,” WHO head Margaret Chan said.
Even more encouraging is the situation in Liberia, which has been free of new Ebola cases for three straight weeks. Once 42 days have passed without any new cases, the outbreak in that country will be declared ended.
In Sierra Leone, Freetown reported 29 of the infections, while 17 were registered in Bombali and Port Loko.
Sierra Leone declares another Ebola lockdown
The leaders of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have set themselves a mid-April deadline for eradicating the disease within their borders. In an effort to meet that deadline, the government of Sierra Leone has announced that it will engage in another lockdown of the capital and the northern part of the country. For three days, 2.5 million people will be confined to their homes as government workers seek to identify Ebola cases that might otherwise go undetected.
“The lockdown will be conducted from 27 March to 29 March and will be like the one we conducted in September last year,” said Palo Conteh, head of the National Ebola Response Centre.
“The government and partners are hopeful that latent cases that are now not being reported or recorded will come out.”
While going door-to-door, government workers will also remind people how to protect themselves from infection, including procedures for dealing with sick or deceased relatives.
“People have become complacent and are still touching corpses, washing bodies and taking sick people to traditional healers,” Conteh said.
“We are determined to bring Ebola to an end and meet the deadline set by the… presidents for 15 April. This is what we are working towards.”
Sierra Leone has been taking aggressive measures to stem the spread of the disease. In February, it sent workers door-to-door in a coastal district of the country to make sure that residents were not hiding sick people or the bodies of Ebola victims.
Written by David Gutierrez
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