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WHO: Number of New Ebola Cases in West Africa Levels Off

  • Zlatica Hoke

The World Health Organization said the number of new Ebola infections in West Africa is about the same as it was the week before, with a rise in some areas and a decline in others.

Reports from Sierra Leone found the number of new Ebola cases has risen drastically in the past weeks.

Justin Forsyth, head of the Save the Children fund, said many of his staff have lost family members in the vicious outbreak.

"I met one of our education advisers that lost 14 members of his family. So they are dealing with a huge amount of pressure and anxiety, they're heroes in this struggle against Ebola and the international staff who are coming in to support this, nurses and doctors and logisticians and health advisors," Forsyth said.

Those who are burying Ebola victims are as much in danger as those who care for Ebola patients, so they have to wear elaborate protective gear.

"Within Sierra Leone, there's a really, really elaborate burial rites and that includes washing by hand a diseased person and also at the funeral - touching the body," said Fiona McLysaght, country director of Concern Worldwide in Sierra Leone.

"So you've gone from a stage of having a very elaborate ceremony - then in this case, you've got people who were deceased and were taken from their family by people dressed from head to toe in plastic suits, they're indistinguishable and it's a very scary situation," McLysaght said.

New Ebola cases slow

In Liberia, the frightening spread of Ebola seems to be slowing down, as the number of new cases has not grown. International aid providers said they are taking great care to prevent the spread of the virus.

"We have to run a very strict, no-contact policy, which means that in any zone where they're distributing, the site that they've chosen, they will establish what they will call the safe area," said Anna Halford, distribution coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. "So they will make the line of people around it, so that while we distribute straight out of the back of a truck so that nothing that people have touched, people are obliged to take, and vice versa."

The international community is responding to calls for more help to the affected region.

The Dutch navy is sending one of its biggest ships, Karel Doorman, with an entire hospital in a container. On the way to Africa, it will pick up additional aid from other European Union members.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced his country's contribution on Wednesday.

"We will commit up to 20 million (Australian) dollars to staff an Ebola treatment center, a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone," Abbott said. "This will be a center that's being built by the United Kingdom, but it will be staffed by Australia through a medical provider, Aspen, an Australian provider."

Also Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $6.18 billion in new emergency Ebola funds for West Africa and to prevent its spread outside the continent.

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