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Ebola Cases Rise Again in West Africa

A steady decline in Ebola cases has stopped and the numbers are ticking up again in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

WHO is worried that there are still people who don’t understand how to stop the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 27,000 people and killed more than 11,000 of them in the West African epidemic. Even more worrying, it's not entirely clear where some of the new cases have come from.

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“In recent weeks, the decline in case incidence and the contraction of the geographic area affected by Ebola virus disease transmission that was apparent throughout April and early May has stalled,” WHO says in its latest update.

“In total, 31 confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the week ending 7 June: 16 cases in Guinea and 15 in Sierra Leone. This is the second consecutive weekly increase in case incidence, and the highest weekly total number of cases reported from Sierra Leone since late March.”

If health workers can find out where and how people were infected, they can track down and check everyone who might have been in close contact and night transmit the disease. But there are still mysterious outbreaks.

End of Ebola Celebrated in Liberia 0:37

“A total of five of the 16 cases reported from Guinea arose from unknown sources of infection,” WHO said.

“In addition, cases were reported from a widening geographical area in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and the continued occurrence of cases that arise from unknown sources of infection highlights the challenges still faced in finding and eliminating every chain of transmission.”

In some places, people are still burying loved ones in unsafe ways. The body of someone who’s just died from Ebola is especially infectious, but it’s hard to persuade people to give up deeply held beliefs about funerals, especially the dangerous practice of washing a corpse.

Liberia was declared Ebola-free this spring.