UNITED NATIONS – With the World Health Organization reporting Friday the total confirmed deaths from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone is approaching 7,700, Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a part of the team that discovered Ebola in 1976, is warning the Ebola epidemic in West Africa will last through 2015.

After more than a year of Ebola transmission in Guinea and more than seven months of transmission in Liberia and Sierra Leone, there is still much to be done to stop the world’s first Ebola epidemic, CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., reported from his second visit to the three West African affected nations.

“It is inspiring to see how much better the response has become in the past two months, how much international commitment there is, and, most importantly, how hard people from each of the three countries are working to stop Ebola,” Frieden said. “But it is sobering that Ebola continues to spread rapidly in Sierra Leone and that in parts of Monrovia and Conakry Ebola is spreading unabated. Improvements in contact tracing are urgently needed.”

Freiden noted that while the Ebola outbreak has slowed dramatically, the disease continues to rage in Sierra Leone.

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The WHO further reported Sierra Leone has confirmed 1,039 cases of Ebola in the last three weeks, compared to 328 in Guinea and 121 in Liberia, with the three West African nations accounting for over 99 percent of all infections and deaths in the current outbreak of the disease that broke out in March.

The BBC news in Africa has reported that Sierra Leone continues to ban Christmas celebrations as the government imposes a three-day lockdown in the north on shops, markets, and non-Ebola related travel, in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.

In the western part of Sierra Leone, a disease “hotspot,” the government has launched a Surge Operation aimed at convincing people to take personal responsibility for bringing the Ebola epidemic to an end.

A government “hotline” has been established to allow citizens to report possible Ebola cases or request assistance with burial.

According to the WHO, the government response in Sierra Leone targets the capital, Freetown, and the neighboring areas to break chains of transmission by increasing the number of beds to ensure patients with clinical symptoms of Ebola are isolated and receive appropriate treatment.

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