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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 05:28 GMT
UN medics tackle Ebola in Gabon
Gabonese army medic spreads disinfectant at Mekambo hospital
The disease is spread through contact with bodily fluids
International medical experts sent to a remote jungle area of northern Gabon are searching for victims of an Ebola outbreak that has already claimed 12 lives.

A statement from the World Health Organisation said the 14-strong team of international and Gabonese medics were "actively tracing suspected cases and contacts".


They have set up an isolation unit in the town of Mekambo and have launched an education programme for local village communities.

Four villages have been put under quarantine. But there is concern the deadly virus will spread, as health workers say they are unable to stop villagers travelling in and out of the area.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said 50 Red Cross volunteers from Gabon were also working to contain the outbreak.

This is the first known outbreak since 224 people died of it in Uganda last year.

There is no known cure for Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, and between 50% and 90% of its victims bleed to death within days.

Early diagnosis is difficult because victims suffer symptoms similar to flu.

Dead monkeys

The outbreak is in the remote north-eastern province of Ogooue Ivindo, where Ebola killed 45 people in 1996-97.


It is difficult to ask too much of villagers, many of whom are illiterate, and who traditionally help their sick and transport the bodies of the dead

WHO doctor Victor Obiang

The Ebola alarm was raised after medical teams discovered an unusually large number of dead primates in the region.

The first human death was recorded on 2 December in Ekata near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DR Congo Government has denied reports that the virus is also the source of an epidemic there.

A total of 28 people have died in this outbreak, although DR Congo health officials say the fever is unlikely to be Ebola, as had been earlier feared, but rather a similar haemorrhagic fever.

Ebola was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the DR Congo.

See also:

10 Dec 01 | Africa
Ebola confirmed in Gabon
27 Feb 01 | Africa
Uganda Ebola free
06 Dec 00 | Africa
Compensation for Ebola deaths
20 Oct 00 | Medical notes
Ebola and other tropical viruses
18 Oct 00 | Health
Africa's emerging virus threat
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