Sierra Leone Starts Nationwide 'Lockdown' as UN Health Chief Calls Ebola 'Greatest Peacetime Challenge' Ever

PHOTO: Sierra Leones president Ernest Bai Koroma inspects an ambulance, one of five donated by the U.S. to help combat the Ebola virus in the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 10, 2014.
Michael Duff/AP Photo

As the worst-ever Ebola outbreak shows no sign of slowing, government officials have now resorted to desperate measures to stop the virus from infecting more people.

In Sierra Leone, the government will attempt to institute a 72-hour “lockdown” in order to give volunteers a chance to find Ebola patients and keep the deadly disease from spreading.

The outbreak in West Africa has already infected more than 5,300 and killed more than 2,600 since it started in March, according to the World Health Organization. The Ebola outbreak is the worst ever, with more people infected and killed in six months than all other previous outbreaks from the past 38 years combined.

The hardest hit countries in West Africa include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Senegal. Some countries have requested help from the international community and aid agencies after being overwhelmed by sick patients.

On Thursday, WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan sounded the alarm about the outbreak, calling it the “likely the greatest peacetime challenge” the United Nations agency has ever faced.

Here’s a look at what you need to know about the ongoing outbreak.

What's Happening Now in the Ebola Outbreak

PHOTO: Two medical staff are bringing a weak patient who has been in contact with people infected with Ebola to the admission at MSF Ebola Treatment Centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone.
Sylvain Cherkaoui/Cosmos for MSF
Sierra Leone Starts Nationwide Lockdown

Sierra Leone started a three-day lockdown at midnight Friday in an effort to stop the spread of the Ebola virus.

According to Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Leone government has ordered the country’s 6 million residents to stay home for three days as volunteers conduct door-to-door Ebola screenings. However, the stringent lockdown may backfire, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Read More About Sierra Leone's Efforts to Shut Down the Ebola Outbreak

"Without enough beds to treat patients who have Ebola we will fail to stop it spreading even further," Doctors Without Borders said. "What Sierra Leone and Liberia urgently need are more beds in case management centers, and they need them now."

What's Happening Now in the Ebola Outbreak

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Sept. 16, 2014.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
Obama Announces Large U.S. Response to Ebola Outbreak

President Obama announced the U.S. would undertake a major military effort to help curb the Ebola outbreak. Speaking to reporters, Obama said the outbreak is “spiraling out of control.”

To help stop the disease from spreading further, Obama announced the deployment of 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa, where the disease has infected more than 5,000 people.

After arriving, U.S. service members will establish 17 treatment facilities, each equipped with 100 beds. They will also train as many as 500 health care workers per week in containment procedures and proper medical care techniques.

What's Happening Now in the Ebola Outbreak

Cargo Ship Crew Member, Who was Feared to Have Ebola, Diagnosed With Malaria

Crew members aboard a cargo ship that stopped in the Democratic Republic of Congo were whisked to a New Orleans Hospital this week amid fears that one of the crew members could be infected with Ebola.

According to an ABC affiliate WNGO-TV, the ship was quarantined after at least one crew member was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Further testing revealed the sick crew member was suffering from malaria.

Symptoms of both malaria and Ebola can include fever and headache.

What's Happening Now in the Ebola Outbreak

PHOTO: Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education joint hearing on, Ebola in West Africa on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 16, 2014.
Susan Walsh/AP Photo
Doctor Who Recovered From Ebola Calls Outbreak ‘Fire Straight From the Pit of Hell’

An American doctor, who was the first Ebola patient to be treated in the U.S., testified before a congressional committee this week recalling the horror and “humiliation” of a disease that has killed thousands.

Dr. Kent Brantly urged lawmakers to take action to stop the virus warning that the deadly disease could eventually pose a national health threat.

"Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire -- a fire straight from the pit of hell,” said Brantly. “We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will keep the flames away from our shores."

What's Happening Now in the Ebola Outbreak

PHOTO: A World Health Organization, WHO, worker, left center, trains nurses to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 18, 2014.
Michael Duff/AP Photo
UN Security Council Takes on Ebola Threat

The United Nations Security Council took on a public health issue for just the second time in its history, when it faced the ever expanding Ebola outbreak.

U.N. Health Chief Dr. Margaret Chan sounded the alarm about the outbreak, calling it “likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.”

“Now we must catch up, in the most urgent and pragmatic way possible,” said Chan. “This is a social crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis, and a threat to national security well beyond the outbreak zones.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a massive increase in aid to stop the Ebola outbreak, with a requested $1 billion to stop the virus from continuing to spread.

The resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council encouraged the governments of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, to launch public education campaigns and quickly diagnose and isolate suspected Ebola cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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