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Africa’s long Ebola battle

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By Aimee Chiavaroli

Cases of Ebola in the United States are a recent occurrence, but the disease has been a concern in Africa for years.

There have been over 14,000 total cases and 5,000 deaths of Ebola in West Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is a theory that it began with someone eating contaminated meat at a wedding feast in Guinea, West Africa, former president of Africare Julius Coles said. He has worked with the United States Agency for International Development  (USAID) for most of his career as a senior official. From Guinea, the disease then spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“I think a lot more has to be done. It’s going to take some time before the disease can be arrested,” Coles said.

The rapid spread of the disease is due in part to African customs, and coming in close physical contact with the sick and the dead. They touch, kiss and are very close, Coles said. They care for the sick, wash the dead and prepare bodies for funerals.

Even if there is a vaccine, more people will die and more money will be spent.

“It’s not impossible,” Coles said in reference to stopping the disease.

There needs to be more health education programs in place to inform people on how the disease is spread and what can be done to prevent it, he said.

One obstacle in getting the vaccine to where it’s needed, Coles said, is that governments need to be as “forthcoming” as possible “in providing financial equipment and resources to combat the epidemic.”

There could be up to 1.4 million cases of Ebola by Jan. 2015 if “additional interventions or changes in community behavior” are not made, according to the CDC.

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