Ebola outbreak continues to spread

The largest outbreak of Ebola on record is spreading throughout Western Africa and has claimed more than 2000 lives over the past month. The UN Health agency has warned that over the coming weeks, an “exponential increase” in new cases is expected in the hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. “Many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming three weeks,” said the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a statement on Monday.

The United States and Britain have moved to send medical equipment and military personnel to help contain the outbreak, which continues to spread throughout the region. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has pleaded for the United States to also send local health workers, as there has been a reluctance to respond to the crisis out of concern for the lack of protective equipment. In Liberia alone, 152 health care workers have been infected with Ebola since the outbreak and 79 of those have died.

Flights in and out of the affected countries have been banned and borders closed during the outbreak, but officials are looking to lift these bans in the coming days as they are significantly slowing the flow of aid and protective gear.

Read more from The Age.

Read more from the BBC.

Opinion: Are Australians at risk?

Ebola is a disease spread through direct contact with blood or the transfer of bodily fluids and the first-stage symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches, take anywhere from two days up to three weeks to develop after contracting the virus. There is no specific treatment for the disease and the death rate is between 50 per cent and 90 per cent.

The disease has currently spread to five countries throughout Western Africa, but it is believed that the outbreak has been contained to just these countries and strict rules are in place to prevent further spread of the disease, with flights banned and borders closed.

With borders expected to re-open in the affected countries over the coming days, the chance of further spread increases, but protocols should be sufficient to contain the disease. We should all be concerned about the outbreak and the affect it is having on Western Africa, but the chances of the disease spreading to Australia is highly unlikely.

Should Australia join the United States and Britain in sending aid to contain this serious outbreak which could potentially affect the whole world?

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