As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread across West Africa, experts do not know how long it will be before they’ll be able to contain the deadly virus, nor how many more lives it will take. But they do know that clean water remains a crucial factor in slowing the outbreak and bringing about an effective medical response.

As of the end of September, 6,600 cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa, and the disease has a nearly 70 percent fatality rate. Plus, Centers for Disease Control considers the actual number of cases to be as many as three times that much, due to underreporting. Without additional interventions, they estimate that as many as 1.4 million people will fall victim to the virus by the end of the year. Clean water and hygiene training are essential to containing this outbreak.

President Ernest B. Koroma—the leader of Sierra Leone, where the disease has killed more than 600 people—launched an appeal last week directed at non-governmental organizations, especially those providing clean water, to put “all hands on deck” in the eradication of Ebola. Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are the three West African nations most affected by the recent outbreak.

If they do not have access to clean water, the medical response to the outbreak is slower and riskier; clean water is required to properly treat patients exposed to the virus and effectively decontaminate health workers and the treatment centers.

Without Clean Water

Keeping health centers sterile requires access to clean water. In Sierra Leone and other parts of West Africa, inadequate water systems hamper the fight against Ebola, particularly at the very places where they treat those infected by the disease.The virus ...

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