Guinea scrambles to contain deadly Ebola outbreak

Guinea scrambles to contain deadly Ebola outbreak
This picture taken on March 9, 2003 shows International Red Cross workers spraying disinfectant around the Intensive Care room at Kelle hospital, northwestern Congo, where an Ebola fever infected patient lies.

CONAKRY - Aid workers and medics battled Monday to contain west Africa's first outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus as tests on suspected cases in Conakry allayed fears that it had spread to the capital.

More than 60 people have died in an outbreak of the virulent virus raging through Guinea's southern forests but tests on three haemorrhagic fever cases -- two of them fatal -- in Conakry were negative, the government said.

"The Pasteur Institute in Dakar worked urgently all last night on samples taken from suspected cases here in Conakry which were all negative," said Sakoba Keita, the health ministry's chief disease prevention officer.

"So for now, there's no Ebola in Conakry, but haemorrhagic fever whose nature remains to be determined."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement on Sunday that the Ebola virus "has quickly spread from the communities of Macenta, Gueckedou, and Kissidougou to the capital, Conakry."

Keita said however that the Pasteur Institute was still working on identifying the virus behind the fever cases in the capital and would know more "in the coming hours".

Officials from the health ministry and the World Health Organisation met on Sunday in Conakry for urgent talks on the crisis.

"From January to March 23 Guinea has recorded a total of 87 suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fever, including 61 deaths," they said in a statement on Monday, indicating that most cases had been reported in the south of the west African country. Virus overwhelms immunse system

The first analyses of samples conducted by the Pasteur Institute in the French city of Lyon showed that the cases in the south of Guinea were due to Ebola virus.

To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, which kills between 25 and 90 per cent of those who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.

The disease is transmitted by direct contact with blood, faeces or sweat, or by sexual contact or unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

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