West Africa is grappling with one of the world’s most fearsome and elusive adversaries: the Ebola virus. So far, the World Health Organization tallies more than 700 dead, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. That includes dozens of local health workers and the top Ebola doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia. WHO chief Margaret Chan said Friday that the epidemic is out of control. Ebola, transmitted by contact with an infected person’s blood or other fluids, makes those eight excruciating days of high fever, diarrhea and often profuse bleeding from body orifices and even the skin’s pores. “The virus attacks the body’s soft tissues — a process some doctors describe, bluntly, as like watching a patient ‘dissolve,” Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek reported during a 2000 outbreak. There is no cure. No effective treatment. No vaccine. The rest of the world, a plane ride or two away, shudders. As with previous outbreaks, the virus shows no mercy. Ebola kills up to 90 percent of its victims with astonishing swiftness. The average time from start of symptoms to death is just eight days. More
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