VALLETTAm Malta - Nearly 90 boat migrants rescued by the Maltese navy on Thursday were being quarantined as a precaution against Ebola, after 20 others reportedly died during the journey and were thrown overboard.
Charles Mallia Azzopardi, who heads the national Ebola Response Unit, told a press briefing that the 87 migrants were being help in isolation "as a precaution" after one of the passengers said he was from Guinea.
Rescuers donned special protective gear and an isolation tent was set up after three of the survivors were discovered to need medical assistance, though Azzopardi said they were likely suffering from severe dehydration.
The migrants, who hail from Burkina Faso, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Mali, are being tested for the virus and will be held in a detention centre in isolation for 21 days.
They told rescuers around 20 others had died during the crossing from North Africa and their bodies had been tipped into the sea.
"@Armed-Forces-MT rescuing 80 immigrants on a distressed dinghy off #Malta coast. Another 20 reported dead and thrown at sea during crossing," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Twitter.
The deadly Ebola epidemic has killed 8,626 people according to the World Health Organisation, but is now slowing throughout west Africa.