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Ebola spread forces evacuations, school closures

By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH The Associated Press

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:46 a.m.

MONROVIA, Liberia -- The largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history has led the U.S. Peace Corps to evacuate hundreds of volunteers from three affected West African countries, and a State Department official on Wednesday said two volunteers were under isolation after having contact with a person who later died of the virus.

Meanwhile, Liberia's president ordered the nation's schools to shut down and most civil servants to stay home as fears deepened over the virus that already has killed more than 670 people in West Africa.

The Peace Corps said it was evacuating 340 volunteers from Liberia as well as neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The State Department official said the two volunteers were not symptomatic and were under observation. The official was not authorized to discuss the cases for attribution, and declined to say where the volunteers were serving or when they were exposed.

Ebola has no vaccine and no specific treatment, and it has a fatality rate of at least 60 percent.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is skipping a summit of African leaders in Washington this week because of the crisis, also called for the closure of markets in an area near the borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"My fellow Liberians, Ebola is real, Ebola is contagious and Ebola kills," she warned. "Denying that the disease exists is not doing your part, so keep yourselves and your loved ones safe."

Sirleaf said security forces would enforce the new precautions taken a week after an American man of Liberian descent boarded a plane in Monrovia and flew to Nigeria, where authorities said he died of Ebola. The fact that he was able to board a plane and traveled through a major airport transit hub in Togo has heightened fears about Ebola's possible spread in the region.

The airline involved, ASKY, has suspended its flights to both the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone and said passengers departing from Guinea would be carefully screened.

Experts say the risk of travelers contracting Ebola is low because the virus requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who are in close contact with the sick.

A Section on 07/31/2014

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