The deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is touching people all the way in the Tri-Cities.
Aissata Sidibe, who teaches physics at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, was born in Mali and grew up in Ivory Coast.
Those countries border the hardest hit by the latest -- and largest ever -- Ebola outbreak, which has killed 700-plus people and infected more than 1,300.
Sidibe has been keeping a close eye on the news, she said. One of her sisters is in Ivory Coast with her family and is OK, Sidibe said. Another sister and brother are in Europe for work. Her sister-in-law, Djita Sidibe, a pediatrician from Mali, is visiting the Tri-Cities.
"But of course, you always have cousins, uncles, you name it," Aissata Sidibe said, adding her family is praying they stay safe and none is exposed.
Djita Sidibe knows three physicians who contracted Ebola and died while working in Guinea, which borders Mali to the west.
One was working in Guinea's capital and the others in more remote areas, she said.
"This is really sad for the health community and the medical community in general," Aissata Sidibe said, noting doctors and other health care workers are becoming sick while trying to help patients.
So far, more than 60 health care workers have died, said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in remarks Friday to the presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which have been the hardest hit.
The outbreak is "the largest in terms of geographical areas already affected and others at immediate risk of further spread," she said.
"It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks. Cases are occurring in rural areas which are difficult to access, but also in densely populated capital cities," Chan said.
She said the outbreak is "moving faster than our efforts to control it." "This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response."
Her remarks are posted on the WHO's website, www.who.int.
Ebola doesn't yet have a licensed vaccine.
Djita Sidibe noted that while that deadly virus is dominating the news, she also sees children and families affected by more treatable diseases, such as yellow fever, because of lack of access to the vaccines.
She urged people to research aid organizations and consider finding ways to help.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald