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Ebola Virus: A Grim, African Reality

There’s nothing like an outbreak of Ebola virus disease to bring a small, struggling African nation to international notice. One week we couldn’t place it on a map; the next week, after Ebola virus disease strikes, we know the body count and the name of the capital and whether its airport has closed.

This sad distinction now attaches to Guinea, a country of 11.5 million, in which the latest of Africa’s viral tribulations was reported by the World Health Organization, upon notification from Guinea’s Ministry of Health, on March 23. As of Tuesday the toll was 157 confirmed or suspected Ebola cases, including 101 deaths. That’s a case fatality rate of 64 percent, somewhat lower than the worst of previous outbreaks but high enough to remind us that Ebola is more inimical to humans than perhaps any known virus on Earth, except rabies and HIV-1. And it does its damage much faster than either.

Among neighbors just across Guinea’s southeastern border, Liberia has confirmed several Ebola cases of its own, in people who recently traveled from Guinea, and Sierra Leone is watching very carefully. No one wants this thing to spread.
 
 

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