A woman sits near a checkpoint with her baby below a sign which tells people about the effects of the Ebola virus. She is unable to leave the quarantine area near the town of Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone where cases of the disease have occurred. The government of Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency on 30 July and deployed troops to quarantine the hot spots of the epidemic.
Sierra Leone is one of three countries severely affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa which started in Guinea in December 2013 and spread to neighbouring countries including Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria. By late September 2014 it had killed close to 3,000 people across the region, 554 in Sierra Leone alone, making it the worst outbreak of the disease since it was identified in 1976. It is believed that the reported number of cases and deaths may well exceed the official figures due to an unwillingness to report cases among the population and a lack of resources to properly investigate suspected cases. Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a disease which affected humans and other primates and is transmitted by coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids from infected persons or animals. It is believed that the disease is carried by fruit bats which can spread the virus without being affected themselves. In parts of West Africa, the consumption of so-called 'bushmeat' is thought to have caused the most recent outbreak.