CENTRAL AFRICAN EBOLA DEATH TOLL KEEPS CLIMBING 



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Last Updated

17 Nov 2002

Source: Reuters, February 19, 2002.

Central African Ebola Death Toll Keeps Climbing

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - The deadly Ebola virus has killed fifty-five people in the central African countries of Gabon and the Republic of Congo in just over two months, health officials said Tuesday.

Ever since the first death in a remote, forested corner of Gabon in December, health workers have struggled to contain the deadly disease, which kills up to 90 percent of its victims by causing massive internal bleeding. Gabon's Health Minister, Faustin Boukoubi, told state radio Tuesday another person had died from Ebola in Mekambo, a town near the border with Congo where the outbreak started, raising the death toll in both countries to 55.

Local newspapers said the number of suspected cases, people being monitored because they may have come into contact with infected persons, now stood at 227, pointing to further deaths.

A hospital official in the 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, is spread by infected bodily fluids. There is no vaccine or known cure.

The World Health Organization in Libreville said Tuesday it would strengthen the team fighting the disease in the northeastern region of Gabon, step up efforts to quarantine suspected victims and improve dialogue with locals.

Health workers have had a hard time trying to stop the spread of Ebola. They have had to tell inhabitants of the remote forest region not to touch victims' corpses, since 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.

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.