The spread of Ebola from a remote corner of Guinea
to the capital and into neighboring Liberia has killed about 130
people and spread panic across West African nations struggling with
weak healthcare systems and porous borders.
While Guinea claimed progress in containing the virus, U.S. experts
opened a lab for testing for Ebola in Liberia and Gambia stepped up
travel restrictions, banning in-bound flights from collecting
passengers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"The number of new cases have fallen rapidly," said Rafi Diallo, a
spokesman for Guinea's health ministry, who gave the latest toll of
106 dead in Guinea from 159 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola
since the outbreak began in February.
Diallo said the new cases being monitored were all people who had
been in contact with those who had fallen ill but were not
"Once we no longer have any new cases ... we can say that it is
totally under control," he added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this month that it
would take two to four months to contain the Ebola outbreak, which
is said had been one of the most challenging it had ever faced.
There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever with a
fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
However, Diallo said Guinea had recorded 37 cases of people
recovering from the disease.
The WHO has said that just under 400 people were still being
observed after being identified as potential Ebola contacts. Tracing
potential cases in Conakry, the sprawling capital that is home to 2
million people, was tricky, it says.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense on Monday opened a
laboratory on the outskirts of Monrovia to test the rising number of
samples of suspected cases in Liberia. It will eliminate the need to
send samples overland into Guinea's remote southeast, where the
disease was first confirmed and tests from Liberia are now being
carried out, officials said.
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Liberia's health ministry has recorded at least 13 deaths from 26
confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola. At least two of the dead
were health workers, highlighting the need for experts to advise
local staff on how to operate in the crisis.
Ebola cases in Liberia were first found near the border with Guinea
but have been nearing the capital, Monrovia.
Samples tested in Mali, Ghana and Sierra Leone have been negative so
far. But they have imposed restrictions ranging from basic health
checks at airports to Dakar's completely shutting the land border
between Senegal and Guinea.
Gambia on April 10 banned Banjul-bound aircraft from picking up
passengers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to a
letter from the transport ministry seen by Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Clair MacDougall in Monrovia and Umaru
Fofana in Freetown; writing by David Lewis; editing by Larry King)
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