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Last Updated

02 Jan 2002

Source: Associate Press, January 2, 2002.

Ebola Kills 23 in Central Africa

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) - A 16-year-old died of Ebola in northeastern Gabon, raising the death toll to 23 in an outbreak of the disease in two Central African countries, health officials said Wednesday.

Vivien Otolany died Sunday at an improvised isolation ward in Mekambo, about 465 miles northeast of the capital, Libreville, government and World Health Organization officials said.

He was the sixth member of his family to die in the outbreak. His aunt, a nurse, caught the disease from a patient, then spread it to her mother, brother, two children and nephew.

Medical officials have confirmed 20 Ebola cases in the northeastern frontier province of Ogooue Ivindo, of whom 17 have died since the outbreak began in October, WHO spokeswoman Ghislaine Moussouany said in Libreville. Twelve other cases, including six fatalities, have been identified in neighboring Republic of Congo.

An additional seven suspected cases are under investigation in Gabon and two in Republic of Congo, WHO said.

Medical experts are monitoring 191 people - 96 in Gabon and 95 in Republic of Congo - who may have had contact with those infected with the disease.

The region is one of the most thinly populated in both countries, inhabited by Pygmies and other tribes who hunt in the vast rain forests.

A team of medical experts from WHO has been working with the health ministries and military doctors of both countries to trace victims, treat patients and educate residents about the disease. The international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, is also helping to contain the virus.

Ebola is one of the most deadly viral diseases known, causing death in 50 to 90 percent of those who become infected. But it usually kills its victims faster than it can spread. The virus is passed through contact with bodily fluids, causing fever, diarrhea, vomiting and heavy bleeding.

WHO says over 800 people have died of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976 in western Sudan and in a nearby region of Congo. The disease last struck in Uganda, killing 224 people last year.