Deadly Ebola Spreads To
Gabon's Northern Borders


LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Ebola, a deadly virus which has already claimed 55 lives, has spread from a remote region to Gabon's more populated north near its borders with three other countries, health officials said on Tuesday.
Health Minister Faustin Boukoubi told state television that the 55th victim in Gabon and the Republic of Congo had died in the northern Gabon town of Oyem, not in the northeast as announced earlier.
This places the latest fatality near Gabon's borders with Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Congo.
Oyem, some 170 miles northwest of Mekambo in the Woleu-N'Tem region, is a crossroads for trade with Gabon's central African neighbors and a source of food for the capital, where nearly half of Gabon's 1.2 million inhabitants live.
Ever since the first death in the northeastern province of Ogooue-Ivindo in December, health workers have struggled to contain Ebola, a disease spread by infected bodily fluids which kills up to 90 percent of its victims through massive internal bleeding.
Health workers have told people not to touch victims' corpses, as some local burial rites involve removing body parts.
Doctors' orders to eat no ape meat -- a local specialty scientists fear may spread the disease -- have also prompted hostility and an international medical team was forced to leave the affected area last month, fearing for their safety.
Local newspapers said the number of suspected cases, people being monitored because they may have come into contact with the infection, now stood at 227, pointing to further deaths.
A hospital official in the northeastern provincial capital Makokou, where many of the victims are being treated, told Reuters there were about 200 people still under observation.
Ebola, named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it was discovered in 1976, responds to no vaccine or known cure.
The World Health Organization office in Libreville said on Tuesday it would strengthen the team fighting the disease in northeast Gabon, step up efforts to quarantine suspected victims and improve dialogue with locals.
The disease killed more than 250 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995 and this is the third known outbreak of Ebola in Gabon since 1994.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Email This Article


This Site Served by TheHostPros