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More Ebola Cases Reported in Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville - 2002-01-04

The death toll from the deadly ebola virus continued to rise in Central Africa this week.

More than two dozen people have died in the latest outbreak. At least nine new cases of the disease have been confirmed in Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

The World Health Organization says a 16-year-old boy died of the Ebola disease in a remote town in northeastern Gabon.

WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl says the victim was the sixth member of his family to have died. He says the boy was related to a nurse who caught the disease from a patient and then spread the deadly virus to other members of her family.

Mr. Hartl says the nurse did not take necessary precautions because she did not know her patient had Ebola. He says early diagnosis of the disease is difficult.

"The symptoms of Ebola are extremely similar in the early stages to any other type of fever causing disease such as malaria or even influenza. You get a high fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea - and only in the later stages can you differentiate more the symptoms and then realize perhaps more easily that you are dealing with Ebola," he says.

WHO estimates the virus kills between 50 and 90 percent of those who are infected. It says people who receive re-hydration therapy quickly have the best chance of survival.

Mr. Hartl says the disease is contained within a small geographical area in Eastern Gabon and in the western Congo.

Although the number of deaths and confirmed cases of Ebola has risen, Mr. Hartl says the WHO is working to make sure the disease does not spread.

"Yes, we knew that likely out of the close to 200 contacts, which we knew existed with the original Ebola cases, is that there would be a probability of new cases developing. So, it is not a surprise. We had anticipated it. So, consequently, it is not something which we had to be unduly worried about. What we do have to make sure is that we isolate the people who need isolating and trace down contacts they might have had with other people," he says.

Mr. Hartl says the Ebola outbreak will be considered over after two incubating periods - or a total of 42 days - pass without any new cases developing.

WHO says more than 800 people have died of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976 in western Sudan and in a nearby region of Congo.