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130 Ebola cases found in lockdown

Health teams that went door-to-door in Sierra Leone found 130 confirmed cases of Ebola during a nationwide shutdown to slow the spread of the disease, an official has said.

Authorities are considering repeating the unprecedented exercise.

About 70 more suspected cases are still being tested, said Deputy Minister for Political and Public Affairs Karamoh Kabba. In all, 92 bodies were found during the three-day campaign, during which teams handed out information about the disease to more than one million households.

The Ebola outbreak sweeping West Africa is believed to have sickened more than 5,800 people and killed more than 2,800, primarily Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The World Health Organisation has warned that even those high tolls are likely to be underestimates. The unprecedented size and sweep of the outbreak has led to dramatic measures, like the cordoning off of entire communities in Liberia and the shutdown in Sierra Leone.

The outbreak has overwhelmed already weak health systems: A shortage of ambulances has stranded many of the sick at home, others have been turned away from teeming treatment centres and bodies have sometimes not been buried for days.

In recent weeks, promises by Western countries to send in more health workers and build more treatment centres have been made and Sierra Leone said it prepared temporary treatment centres for whatever cases it found during the lockdown.

Though many experts initially raised doubts about the lockdown's ability to slow the outbreak, saying it would be hard to keep the country's six million people at home, the government has hailed it as a success, and it now considering doing it again.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said on the radio today that he is "mainly satisfied with the whole process, as it has helped reaching more homes and bringing to the fore many sick people and corpses."

The committee co-ordinating the Ebola response is still analysing the results of the lockdown.

Dr David Heymann an Ebola expert, and professor of infectious diseases at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said reaching so many people with information about Ebola could be crucial to stopping the outbreak. Six months into the world's largest-ever Ebola outbreak, confusion, fear and misunderstanding about the disease is still hindering efforts to control it.

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