The number of suspected and confirmed Ebola infections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has doubled to 62 within a week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday in Geneva.
Only one additional death was recorded between September 2 and September 9, bringing the toll to 35, the UN health agency said, citing the latest available figures provided by the government of the Central African country.
The outbreak in DRC has occured independently of the one in West Africa and involves a different virus strain. WHO said that the government of DRC has launched a robust response to counter the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's government was planning to distribute 1.5 million bars of soap to help curb the epidemic that has killed almost 2,300 people in West Africa.
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A Senegalese health worker hands out Ebola prevention flyers during an Ebola awareness campaign in a market in the suburbs of Dakar on September 11, 2014. A Guinean student who was Senegal's only confirmed case in the deadly Ebola epidemic has recovered, the health ministry said on September 10. Senegal became the fifth country affected by the West African outbreak when the student crossed the border just before it closed on August 21. The outbreak, which began in Guinea at the start of the year before spreading through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, has claimed 2,296 lives among 4,293 cases. AFP PHOTO / SEYLLOU Getty Images)
First defence: wash your hands
Some 21 000 health workers and volunteers are set to hand out the soap to Sierra Leone's 6 million citizens next week, said emergency operations centre director Stephen Ngauja.
The door-to-door campaign will also be instrumental in educating the population about the virus and the importance of washing one's hands to reduce the risk of transmission, Ngauja added.
Also on Thursday, Sierra Leone announced it will close the border between its southern Pujehun District and Liberia, which is crossed daily by hundreds of people, mostly traders.
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The border closure was "a necessary precautionary measure," because Liberia accounts for about half of all Ebola deaths, said parliamentarian Sidi Yaya Tunis.
Ebola causes massive haemorrhaging and has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.
The disease is transmitted through contact with blood and other bodily fluids and has been particularly difficult to fight in some West African countries, where hospital and diagnostic capacities have been overwhelmed.
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Image: A girl washes her hands with chlorinated water in Sierra Leone. WHO