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Authorities Don't Know Extent of Gabon Ebola Infections - 2001-12-10


The World Health Organization has confirmed that an outbreak of fever in the West African country of Gabon is the deadly disease Ebola. A WHO spokesman tells VOA the health agency received test results from a laboratory in Gabon on Saturday. Seven people have reportedly died.

The World Health Organization says the laboratory in Gabon has confirmed that several people died from the Ebola virus. WHO Spokesman, Gregory Hartl says no one yet knows how widely the disease may have spread.

"I can not say with any surety how many people are currently infected with the disease. Probably no one knows exactly," he said. "But, one would assume if there has been seven people who have already died that there are others who are either actively already showing signs of Ebola or will develop signs of Ebola."

The outbreak is in a remote province in northeastern Gabon. The World Health Organization has a team in place and is sending four more specialists to the area on Monday. Ebola is passed through contact with bodily fluids, such as mucus, saliva and blood, but not through the air.

The virus incubates for four to 10 days before flu-like symptoms set in. There is no cure for Ebola, which kills between 35 and 80 percent of those infected. Mr. Hartl says great precaution must be taken to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

"What is normal in an Ebola outbreak is that you isolate anyone who either is already showing symptoms of the disease or has been in contact with someone who shows symptoms of the disease or has died from Ebola," he said. "It is basically isolating everyone possible because the disease is so contagious."

Last year, 2,024 people died of Ebola in Uganda. There have been three outbreaks of Ebola in Gabon in the last seven years. In the last outbreak in 1997, 45 of 60 infected people died.

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