World Bulletin / News Desk
Authorities in Guinea scrambled on Friday to halt the spread of Ebola in the capital as the Health Ministry identified another four suspected cases of a deadly virus outbreak that is estimated to have already killed 70.
Officials said the previous day that five cases of Ebola had been detected in Conakry, a city of more than 2 million people, some 300 km (185 miles) from the previous infections in the West African country's remote southeast. One elderly man died and four male relatives were quarantined.
Authorities in Guinea have launched an investigation into the movements of the infected men in Conakry and steps are being taken to deal with anyone who came into contact with them, the government said in a statement.
The arrival of the disease in the capital, where hundreds of thousands of people live tightly packed in rambling shanties, could mark a sharp increase in the population at risk compared with the sparsely populated villages of the forested interior.
In neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia, 11 more people have died from suspected Ebola, stirring concern that one of the most lethal infectious diseases known to man could be spreading in an impoverished region ill-equipped to cope.
In Guinea, 111 suspected cases have been detected, almost all in the remote forest region, centred on Gueckedou. The mortality rate from the infection is running at 64 percent, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
"Families have been decimated. When you go into rural areas, especially in Gueckedou, you see villages where there are lots of people infected," said Mariano Lugli, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Lugli said containing the outbreak was made difficult by the itinerant nature of the local culture, where people often travel to visit relatives and conduct commerce. "Our biggest difficulty is isolating the cases and putting them in centres for specialised care so they cannot infect other people," he said.
In Gueckedou, MSF has constructed an isolation ward with 20 beds for patients, he said. Television images from the scene showed the ward, its inside coated with plastic wrapping, and medical staff wearing protective facemasks and clothing.
There is no vaccine and no known cure for the disease, which initially induces fever, headaches, muscle pain and weakness. In its more acute phase, Ebola causes vomiting, diarrhoea and external bleeding that leaves the victim covered in the virus.
Traditional funerals, where bodies are washed by hand, have been linked to the spread of the disease, prompting authorities to ban them. The consumption of bat meat has also been forbidden: experts believe the disease - more common in Congo, Sudan and Uganda - is carried by bats, explaining how it crossed the continent.
Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people since it was first recorded in 1976 in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo, but this is the first fatal outbreak in West Africa.
A mysterious fever was first detected in Guinea in early February but it took authorities nearly six weeks to identify it as Ebola, allowing the virus to spread. Guinea is deploying a mobile laboratory to Gueckedou to speed up identification of the disease and test samples from Sierra Leone and Liberia.
West African foreign ministers this week said the outbreak was a "threat to regional security". Joining a list of countries stepping up controls, Senegal said on Friday it was imposing sanitary checks at borders and on flights arriving from Conakry.
On the streets of Conakry, people remained calm but some executives at international mining companies voiced concern. "We have asked our employees to avoid physical contact, especially in hospitals," said one executive with a mining firm that has operations in the southeast.
Many offices placed antiseptic wash outside their doors for people to wash their hands before entering. People also avoided shaking hands - an important part of West African greetings.
"All that one can ask is that we do not give in to panic, and to respect the basic rules of hygiene," said Abdourahmane Conde, a telecommunications engineer.
In an interview Hollywood actor Jean Claude Van Damme has stated that he favoured Arabic food and that the diet followed by the Prophet Muhammad was one that was best for the human body
El Nino has devastated Mozambique's Gorongosa park with political tensions threatening the park
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on skin for a few minutes to create suction, the therapy itself dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Earth has hit a record high with an overall globel temperature the highest ever on record
The National Institute of Health may fund research into mixed embryos to better understand human diseases and develop therapies to treat them.
Travel across multiple time zones disrupts circadian rhythms resulting in jet lag
After five years the radiation levels in the Pacific Ocean are close to normal levels after a nuclear meltdown in the city
A trilateral pledge will see a jump from the current collective clean power levels of about 37% to 50% by 2025
Around 6.5 million deaths globally are attributed each year to poor air quality inside and outside, making it the world's fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking
New World Drug Report research identifies heroin as deadliest drug
Zika has caused alarm throughout the Americas since cases of the birth defect microcephaly were reported in Brazil, the country hardest hit by the outbreak
Philadelphia has become the first big city in the US to place a tax on soda to tackle the obesity crisis
Average global temperatures startlingly higher than normal between March-May
Government study provides strongest evidence of cell phone health effects
The reason for the high-level threat in the area is the presence there of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus that health authorities say causes birth defects in newborns