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Ebola Virus Update: Samaritan's Purse, SIM, Peace Corps Remove Personnel as Disease Spreads

( [email protected] ) Jul 31, 2014 08:01 PM EDT
As the deadly Ebola virus spreads throughout countries in Southern Africa, humanitarian organizations are evacuating personnel as directed by the Center for Disease Control.
Dr. Brantly, who was infected with Ebola, makes chlorine solution for disinfection at the case management center at ELWA Hospital. Samaritan's Purse

As the deadly Ebola virus rapidly spreads throughout South Africa, humanitarian groups are pulling volunteer personnel from infected areas.  

Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian charity started by Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham, said it would pull nonessential personnel from Liberia "because of instability and ongoing security issues in the area."

"The safety of our staff is a top priority and Samaritan's Purse is currently working to evacuate all but the most essential personnel to their home countries," reads a statement released on the group's website.

"Samaritan's Purse is taking precautions that exceed the standards recommended by the Centers for Disease Control."

Two members of Samaritan's Purse, Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, are currently being held in isolation and treated for Ebola in Liberia, where 249 people have been infected and 129 have died, according to the World Health Organization.

"We ask that people continue to pray for Kent and Nancy and all those who are affected by Ebola, and the tremendous group of doctors and nurses who are caring for them," Samaritan's Purse said in a statement.

Both Brently and Writebol are in "serious condition," according to the group's website, but have shown "a slight improvement in the past 24 hours."

Over  1,200 people have contracted the virus  and 672 people have died in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in what experts have called the largest ever Ebola outbreak.

The U.S. Peace Corps has also temporarily removed all personnel from infected countries, citing the "increasing" spread of the virus.  

Several Peace Corps volunteers under isolation have no symptoms but had contact with an infected person who later died, officials said.

Currently, there are 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 volunteers in Liberia and 130 volunteers in Sierra Leone working in education in the Peace Corps program, which is run by the U.S. government.

Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told ABC News that there is already a lack of professional medical personnel fighting the outbreak, leaving "overtaxed doctors more vulnerable to accidental exposures like needle sticks."

"I think the reality is there aren't enough personal and resources," he said. "I think the key things that are really needed are health care personnel and others who can help in the situation, such as epidemiologists."

Thus far, over 100 health care workers from various organizations have contracted Ebola in West Africa and at least 50 have died, according to WHO.