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Ebola Claims Another Victim in Congo - 2002-01-08

The World Health Organization reports the Ebola virus has claimed another life in Central Africa. The U.N. health agency says this brings the death toll to 24 out of 33 confirmed cases.

The latest death occurred in the Republic of Congo. It shares a border with the West African country of Gabon, where the disease first was discovered in October.

The World Health Organization will not disclose any information about the latest victim, saying such details are confidential.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says the agency has set up isolation centers in Gabon and Congo to care for people suspected of carrying the Ebola virus. "In those isolation centers, we do have an additional 15 suspected cases," he said. " So, 15 people are being treated with the utmost precautions by the health workers there. We are doing as much as possible as we can for these people - rehydrating them, hoping that their natural body defenses can help them survive the Ebola virus."

In addition, WHO medical teams are monitoring more than 200 people in Gabon and 34 others in the Congo who may have had contact with people infected with the disease.

Ebola is highly contagious. The virus is passed through contact with bodily fluids, but it is not airborne.

Mr. Hartl says one of the problems of treating Ebola is that it is often confused with other diseases. "In the early stages of the disease, it is very difficult to differentiate someone who has Ebola from someone who has malaria, or even flu, because you start out with Ebola with developing a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea," he said. "And it is only in the later stages of the disease that you get the symptoms which are characteristic of Ebola alone."

In these later stages, the virus starts attacking internal organs, which causes heavy bleeding.

There is no cure for Ebola, which is one of the deadliest viral diseases known, killing 50 to 90 percent of its victims. The U.N. agency says those who quickly receive re-hydration therapy have the best chance of survival.

Mr. Hartl says the current epidemic will be considered ended when two incubation periods of 21 days each pass without new cases.