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'Unprecedented' Ebola epidemic

March 31, 2014

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders has warned that a deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea is dangerously widespread. Neighboring Liberia has also confirmed two cases of the disease.

MSF workers in protective clothing
Image: MSF

Guinea is confronting an Ebola epidemic that is unprecedented in terms of its geographical spread, medical charity Doctors Without Borders - also known under its French acronym MSF - said on Monday.

"We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country: Gueckedou, Macenta, Kissidougou, Nzerekore, and now Conakry," Mariano Lugli, the organization's coordinator in the Guinean capital, Conakry, said.

Lugli said the fact that the disease has broken out in several locations that are sometimes hundreds of kilometers apart will make it harder to control the epidemic.

The number of deaths linked with the outbreak in the country's southeast since January has risen to 78 out of 122 suspected Ebola cases, Guinea's health ministry said overnight. Of these, 22 cases were confirmed to be the deadly disease, the ministry said.

Liberian cases

Two more cases have been confirmed across the border in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The cases were among seven samples tested from the northern Foya district, the WHO said in a statement released on Sunday.

"Two of those samples have tested positive for the Ebola virus. There have been two deaths among the suspected cases, a 35-year-old woman who died on March 21 tested positive for Ebola virus while a male patient who died on March 27 tested negative," it said.

The WHO said neighboring Sierre Leone has also identified two suspected cases, both of whom died, but neither has been confirmed to be Ebola.

The disease, which has a historic death rate of up to 90 percent, was first observed in 1976 in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo, but this is the first fatal outbreak in West Africa. There is no treatment or vaccine available.

Senegal, another neighbor of Guinea, closed its land border over the weekend and has suspended weekly markets near the border to prevent the spread of the disease.

tj/dr (Reuters, AFP)