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North Korea Bans Foreign Tourists Over Ebola Threat

FILE - A Chinese tourist looks towards the north through a pair of binoculars at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, Oct. 16, 2013.

Two travel agencies say North Korea is barring foreign tourists from entering the country over concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus.

The Beijing-based Koryo Tours said in a statement it has been informed Pyongyang will not accept any international tourists starting Friday. The group does not know how long the ban will last.

The move was confirmed Thursday by a separate tour group, the China-based Young Pioneer Tours, which also specializes in organizing trips to the reclusive, communist state.

It is not immediately clear if the move will also apply to other foreigners in North Korea, including diplomatic personnel.

North Korea has not commented on the ban, but its state media have recently reported on expanded efforts, including quarantine measures and public outreach campaigns, to prevent an outbreak of Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa this year, though no cases have been reported in North Korea.