Aid workers and health officials in Guinea battled Monday to contain west Africa’s first outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus as neighbouring Liberia reported its first suspected victims.
At least 59 people are known to have died in Guinea’s southern forests but the Liberian cases, if confirmed, would mark the first spread of the highly contagious pathogen into another country.
“As of this morning six cases have been reported of which five have already died — four female adults and one male child. One of the suspected cases, a female child, is under treatment,” Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale said in a statement.
“The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitising local health authorities on the disease,” he added.
Gwenigale did not specify the victims’ nationalities, but Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they were Liberian residents who had attended funerals in the Ebola-hit area of Guinea, which has strong “family ties” with northern Liberia.
“People come to attend funerals on one side and unfortunately they unwittingly get infected and then return home,” Brussels-based MSF emergency coordinator Marie-Christine Ferir told AFP.