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Sierra Leone declares emergency as Ebola death toll hits 729


Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone June 25, 2014. Photo - Umaru Fofana/Reuters

Freetown: Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine Ebola victims, joining neighbouring Liberia in imposing controls as the death toll from the outbreak of the virus hit 729 in West Africa.

The World Health Organisation said it would launch a $100 million response plan on Friday during a meeting with the affected nations in Guinea. It is in urgent talks with donors and international agencies to send more medical staff and resources to the region, it said.

The WHO on Thursday reported 57 new deaths in the four days to July 27 in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, raising the death toll to 729. It said the number of Ebola cases had topped 1,300.

"The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.

Sierra Leone's president, Ernest Bai Koroma, announced a series of emergency measures, to initially last 60 to 90 days, in a speech on Wednesday night.

"Sierra Leone is in a great fight. Failure is not an option," he said.

Security forces will enforce a quarantine on all centres of the disease and help health officers and aid workers to work unhindered, following attacks on health workers by local people.

Liberia has put in place measures including the closure of all schools and a possible quarantine of affected communities.

The outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever, for which there is no known cure, began in the forests of eastern Guinea in February, but Sierra Leone now has the highest number of cases.

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