Workers from Doctors Without Borders unload emergency
medical supplies to deal with an Ebola outbreak in Conakry,
Guinea. REUTERS/Saliou Samb
Authorities in Guinea say they have stopped an outbreak
of deadly Ebola fever from spreading beyond the country's
remote southeast, although the number of deaths from suspected
infections has risen to at least 63.
U.N. agencies and medical charities such as Doctors Without
Borders (MSF) have scrambled to help Guinea - one of the
world's poorest countries - cope with the virus, amid fears
it might spill across borders into neighbouring West African
Liberia, which shares a border with southeastern Guinea,
reported at five deaths this week from suspected infections
in people who had come across the frontier to seek treatment.
Sierra Leone has also uncovered two deaths in the border town
of Boidu suspected to be linked to Ebola, one of the most
lethal infectious diseases known to man.
Laboratory tests have so far only confirmed 13 cases of the
disease, from 45 tests. More samples, some of them from
Sierra Leone and Liberia, have been sent for examination.
"The epidemic is not spreading to other regions," Guinean
Health Minister Remy Lamah told Reuters by telephone from the
affected area in Guinea's remote Forest region. "Medical
equipment has been shipped in. MSF is helping us to control
An MSF spokesperson said the number of suspected infections
had risen by just two from Tuesday to 88, according to
government figures. Four more people died, however, bringing
the death toll to 63.
MSF flew in 33 tonnes of medical equipment at the weekend,
enabling the creation of an isolation ward in Gueckedou, the
epicentre of the outbreak. Ten patients with Ebola symptoms
were receiving treatment there, MSF said.
Another isolation facility is being set up in the town of
Macenta to deal with suspected cases there, said the medical
charity, which is reinforcing its emergency team of 30 staff.
BAN ON BUSHMEAT, BATS
Since its discovery in 1976 in what is now Democratic
Republic of Congo, only around 2,200 cases of Ebola have been
recorded. Of those, 1,500 were fatal.
The outbreak of mysterious haemorrhagic fever was first
detected in Guinea in February. Scientists have since
identified it as the most virulent Zaire strain of the Ebola
The virus is believed to reside primarily in bats between
rare outbreaks in humans. Some experts believe it may have
been carried by bats from central Africa, where it is more
In an effort to stop the transmission of the disease, Guinea
has banned the sale and consumption of bats and other types
of bush meat, and banned public funerals for those killed.
Volunteers from the Guinean Red Cross were disinfecting the
homes of victims and dealing with infected bodies.
The disease incubates for up to three weeks and its symptoms
are similar to malaria and cholera, making it difficult to
detect in West Africa, where such diseases are endemic.
The virus initially causes raging fever, headaches, muscle
pain, conjunctivitis and weakness, before moving into more
severe phases of causing vomiting, diarrhoea and
haemorrhages. There is no vaccine and no known cure.
A team of Guinean and MSF officials were visiting villages
advising people on precautionary measures. Infection can be
reduced by simple measures such as washing hands, wearing
gloves, face masks and protective goggles.
The teams were travelling by foot seeking to identifying
people who have been in direct contact with Ebola victims and
to isolate people showing symptoms of the disease, MSF said.
International SOS - a leading medical and travel security
services company - said business travellers and expatriates
working outside the healthcare sector had a low risk of
contracting the rare disease. Several international mining
companies are active in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
It was the first recorded fatal outbreak of Ebola in West
Africa. A non-fatal case was documented in a scientist
studying an Ebola outbreak in chimpanzees in the Tai national
park in Ivory Coast in 1994.