West African nations scrambled to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus suspected to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea, with symptoms of the disease reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia as well.
The spread of Ebola, one of the most lethal infectious diseases known, has spooked nations with weak health care systems. In Guinea’s southeast, home to all the confirmed cases, residents are avoiding large gatherings and prices in some markets have spiked as transporters avoid the area.
Health authorities in Liberia said they had now recorded eight suspected cases of Ebola, mainly in people who crossed the border from Guinea.
Five of these had died but tests were still being carried out to check if the cases were indeed Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a total of 86 suspected cases, including 59 deaths, had been reported in southeastern Guinea near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Laboratory tests have confirmed 13 cases of Ebola in Guinea so far, the first outbreak of the disease in West Africa.
“People are really frightened. They have seen people die in a matter of just two or three days. They are constantly worried who is going to be the next fatality,” said Joseph Gbaka Sandounou, who manages operations for aid agency Plan International in Guekedou.
Samples taken from those who died in Liberia had been sent to Conakry for testing, according to the Geneva-based WHO.
In Guinea, authorities have taken steps to quarantine suspected cases in the districts of Guekedou, Macenta, Nzerekore and Kissidougou.
In Sierra Leone, authorities set up a task force after the death of a 14-year-old boy who had attended the funeral of a suspected Ebola victim. Authorities have yet to confirm if the boy died of the disease.