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WHO Races to Contain Gabon Ebola Outbreak - 2001-12-10

The World Health Organization says an Ebola outbreak in Gabon has led to the deaths of 11 people in the West African nation.

The World Health Organization says its experts are racing against the clock to help contain the highly contagious and often deadly disease. A WHO team is traveling to Gabon to help health officials.

WHO spokesman Iain Simpson says the organization wants to do whatever it can to help Gabonese officials. "We are essentially working with them, helping them coordinate a response and also working to get supplies and protective equipment to Gabon as quickly as possible," he said. This is the first documented outbreak of Ebola since an outbreak last year in Uganda that killed 224 people.

There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever that is spread through contact with bodily fluids. But health officials say that patients who are treated early for dehydration have a good chance of survival.

WHO says one way of helping contain Ebola will be to work with local medical staff in the remote Ogooue Ivindo province in northern Gabon, where the disease has been detected. Gabonese authorities have cordoned off the remote forest area in a bid to prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Mr. Simpson of the WHO says the remoteness of the area has made getting information about the outbreak difficult. "We are now in the process of trying to get more information and also get our team out there so they can help to make sure that we know where it is, what it is and make sure it does not spread," he said.

Ebola incubates for four to 10 days before flu-like symptoms appear. The virus causes internal bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea.