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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 12:30 GMT
Congolese flee Ebola scare
Thousands of people have fled a town in one of the two areas of Congo-Brazzaville most affected by the Ebola virus, which in the last two months has killed more than 80 people.

The BBC's Pascale Harter travelled to the town of Kelle - near the border with Gabon - to find it completely deserted.

She says the town's inhabitants fled after a witch-doctor told them they would all be dead in four days.

The World Health Organisation has been holding meetings with local leaders trying to raise awareness about what causes Ebola - in particular the dangers of eating wild animals or touching the bodies of whose who have died of the disease.


Our correspondent told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that about 2,000 of Kelle's inhabitants had gone into hiding.

She says it is a tense and frightening atmosphere - everyone is nervous about getting Ebola.

The disease begins with high fever, diarrhoea, bleeding from the nose and gums, and can eventually induce massive internal haemorrhages.

Doctors say the virus can spread through infected bush meat
But our correspondent says there is a great level of misunderstanding among the population about what causes it.

Four teachers have been killed by a mob after being accused of causing the outbreak.

And people have been unwilling to seek medical help - only about five people have been hospitalised and one is showing signs of pulling through.

The WHO has appealed for international aid to cover the costly isolation techniques used in containing the Ebola virus as well as securing food for the population.

The Congolese Government has already appealed to the United Nations World Food Programme for help.

But the WFP has warned that it was already hopelessly overstretched in providing food aid for 60,000 people who have fled ongoing fighting in the Pool Region of Congo.

The BBC's Pascale Harter
"There is great misunderstanding"

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