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Suspected Ebola Cases Reported in Mali

Officials in Mali are investigating three suspected cases of Ebola, amid a regional outbreak of the deadly disease.

Mali's Minister of Health Ousmane Kone announced the suspected cases Friday.

Health workers have sent biological samples to be tested at a lab in the U.S. city of Atlanta. In the meantime, the three people have been placed in isolation, where they are receiving treatment.

The World Health Organization says at least 86 people have died from the Ebola virus in Guinea along with seven in neighboring Liberia.

WHO says it is investigating 154 suspected or confirmed cases in the West African region, most of them in Guinea.

Doctors Without Borders says it is strengthening its response to the outbreak in Guinea. In a VOA interview, spokesman Sam Taylor said the medical aid organization is trying to track down the sources of new infections.

"Here in the capital, Conakry, the situation is that we are now focusing on reaching out into the communities to find out where the patients were before they came into our facility and to find out who they met. We are working very closely with the ministry of health here and the U.S. Center for Disease Control because, obviously, the only way to tackle this outbreak is to identify people who have been in contact with existing patients."

Ebola is caused by a highly infectious virus, spread through contact with bodily fluids. Health experts are warning people in the affected areas to avoid direct contact with patients or those killed by the disease.

Mali's government says it has created a "rapid intervention team" to monitor the situation and will set up a national hotline to report cases.

This is the first major outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Previous outbreaks have occurred in central African countries, including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.