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Ebola Deaths Top 10,000

The largest Ebola epidemic in history passed a grim milestone according to figures released Thursday by the World Health Organization.

WHO’s most recent tally showed that the virus has claimed 10,004 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since last year. The number of cases in those three West African nations has slowed, but they still account for more than 24,350 infections since the epidemic began 13 months ago.

Sierra Leone experienced a mini outbreak after infected fishermen came ashore in early February and spread the infection in a crowded slum.

Liberia says it has had no new confirmed Ebola cases since Feb. 19, but it’s not yet passed the 42-day threshold of no infections it needs to be declared Ebola-free. Ebola has killed more than 4,000 Liberians.

Liberian officials said their country is waiting until the official Ebola-free declaration before it honors the epidemic’s victims.

On Wednesday, Liberians observed Decoration Day, a time when family members of the deceased decorate their graves.

While Ebola appears to be fading in West Africa, health officials are concerned about a potentially deadly outbreak in the region — measles. Experts say the Ebola outbreak created a massive disruption in the area’s fragile health systems and another epidemic could quickly take its place.

More than 1.1 million at-risk children between the ages of 9 months and 5 years in West Africa have not been vaccinated this year against measles, a highly contagious disease. The figure represents a 45-percent increase over last year’s total.

There are also concerns about increases in the spread of polio and whooping cough.

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