Mali seeks to contain Ebola fears after girl dies

Mali seeks to contain Ebola fears after girl dies
A health worker checks the temperature of a woman entering Mali from Guinea at the border in Kouremale.

BAMAKO - Mali authorities on Saturday scrambled to calm fears over Ebola after the disease claimed its first victim in the African country, a contagious toddler who took a 1,000-kilometre journey on public buses before seeking treatment.

The World Health Organisation warned the situation in Mali was an "emergency," and said in its latest Ebola situation report that the biggest outbreak on record has now killed 4,922 people, the vast majority of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 10,141 cases reported.

The US states of New York and New Jersey ordered mandatory quarantine for medics who had treated victims of the disease in west Africa, after a doctor who had returned from the region became the first Ebola case in New York City.

President Barack Obama sought to calm a jittery public by hugging one of the two nurses who became the first to contract Ebola on American soil after treating a patient, but has now been declared free of the disease.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita aimed to ease fears after the death of a two-year-old girl, the first Ebola case in the landlocked country, who travelled from neighbouring Guinea.

"We are doing everything to prevent panic and psychosis," he said in an interview with French radio.

"Since the start of this epidemic, we in Mali took all measures to be safe, but we never hermetically sealed ourselves from this," he said.

"Guinea is a neighbouring country, we have a common border that we have not closed and that we will not close."

Mali 'emergency'

But WHO said it was treating the situation in Mali as an "emergency" because the toddler had travelled for hundreds of kilometres on public transport with her grandmother while showing symptoms of the disease - meaning that she was contagious.

She was said to be secreting bodily fluids - contact with which is how the virus is passed on.

"The child's symptomatic state during the bus journey is especially concerning, as it presented multiple opportunities for exposures - including high-risk exposures - involving many people," the UN agency said.

The girl and her grandmother travelled by public transport from Keweni in Guinea through the towns of Kankan, Sigouri and Kouremale to the Malian capital, Bamako.

"The two stayed in Bamako for two hours before travelling on to Kayes," in Mali's southwest, where treatment was sought for the child, the WHO said.

The route made for a journey of around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) that would likely take the better part of 24 hours.

"Bleeding from the nose began while both were still in Guinea, meaning that the child was symptomatic during their travels through Mali... multiple opportunities for exposure occurred when the child was visibly symptomatic." An Ebola victim is contagious when showing symptoms of the virus, such as a high fever.

The Malian authorities were tracing everyone who had contact with the girl and her grandmother and 43 people had been placed under observation, the WHO said.

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