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Authorities in Sierra Leone have warned that sheltering anyone infected with the Ebola virus will be treated as a serious crime.

It comes after the World Health Organisation demanded “drastic action” to stop the spread of the killer virus.

As many of 399 deaths have been reported in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Fear and superstition are driving people away from infected areas and into cities increasing the chances of a mass outbreak: “ I ran away from Ebola, a lot of people died, a lot of my family, a nurse who helped my mother died, the men who buried her died,” said one woman who left her home Daru to seek refuge in Freetown.

A particular problem for authorities is the burial process of those that have died of the virus.

Contact with the body of an Ebola victim increases the chance of infection.

Dr Shek Moar Khan is from the Lassa Fever Programme:

“Whenever somebody shows symptoms they must get help. People who take care of their own dead are at risk, people even hide the bodies. The bodies are highly infectious. So if a family buries a relative ten more people will contract Ebola.”

The WHO has dispatched 150 specialists to the region to help contain the spread, which is no longer country specific, but a sub-regional problem.

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