Ebola empties hotels as Africa borders close

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CONAKRY, Guinea -- Ibrahima Capi Camara's phone at the Grand Hotel de L'Independence in Guinea's capital hasn't stopped ringing since an Ebola outbreak began last month, for all the wrong reasons.

"At least 80 percent of our reservations have been canceled," Mr. Camara, general manager of the 217-room hotel in the heart of Conakry, said last week. "Clients are scared to come because of Ebola."

West Africa is fighting to contain the spread of the disease that has claimed the lives of 111 people in Guinea and Liberia, the worst outbreak in seven years. There is no cure or vaccine for the disease, which kills as many as 9 out of 10 people who contract it. The World Health Organization has warned that the disease will probably continue to spread in the region for a few more months.

This has prompted some West African countries to close their borders in an effort to curtail the spread of Ebola. But measures such as closing borders and restricting travel "don't make sense," according to the WHO A more effective way to contain the spread of the disease is for people to avoid close contact with patients already sickened with it, the WHO says.

But this hasn't stopped Senegal from shutting part of its a border or Ivory Coast from barring buses from Liberia and Guinea.

The disease will curb economic growth in Liberia by slowing cross-border commerce, reducing customs revenue and investment, the country's finance minister, Amara Konneh, said recently. Gross domestic product will expand 6.8 percent this year, slower than the 8.7 percent last year, he said.

Mohamed Cherif Abdallah, head of the Organized Group of Businessmen in Conakry, said the outbreak is already hurting that country's economy. Despite having huge mineral reserves, Guinea is one of the world's poorest nations.

Inadequate health care and a shortage of doctors have made fighting the disease more difficult.

The current outbreak is the first time the disease, identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, has caused deaths in west Africa. The virus is transmitted to people through blood and other secretions of wild animals, according to the WHO. Humans pass the virus to each other through contact with blood and other body fluids. The disease causes high fever, diarrhea and vomiting, and can lead to internal bleeding.



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