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Suspected Ebola cases in Liberia, Canada

Sapa-DPA

Liberia suspects numerous infections and five deaths are from the Ebola virus spreading from neighbouring Guinea, with one suspected case in Canada.

Workers from Doctors Without Borders unload emergency medical supplies to deal with the Ebola outbreak in Conakry, Guinea. (Reuters)

Liberian authorities on Tuesday reported 11 suspected Ebola cases and five deaths, after the deadly virus spread from neighbouring Guinea where it is believed to have killed at least 59 people. And Canadian authorities have isolated a man showing symptoms of haemorrhagic fever resembling Ebola after travelling from Liberia.

The Liberian cases were detected in the districts of Zorzor, Lofa and Foyah, near the country's northern border with Guinea, according to the health department. Health officials are investigating the five deaths after a group of people crossed the border from Guinea in search of medical treatment.

"The disease is reported to be spreading along the border with Liberia, specifically in the communities and towns close to the Guinea towns of Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta," health department chief medical officer Bernice Dahn told local newspaper FrontPage Africa

"The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitising local health authorities on the disease," said Dahn. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is in the process of "confirming these [suspected] cases to know what we are dealing with", said WHO adviser to Liberia Peter Clement.

Residents have been calling for the border to be closed. 

Last week, Guinea's ministry of health registered almost 100 infections since the virus was first reported last month, saying that the outbreak had reached "epidemic proportions". Guinea's southern districts of Macenta, Kissidougou and Gueckedou, which border Sierra Leone, have been particularly affected by the outbreak.

Crossing oceans
A man who recently travelled to West Africa is seriously ill and being kept in isolation in a Canadian hospital with symptoms of a haemorrhagic fever resembling the Ebola virus, according to Saskatchewan health officials.

He fell ill after returning from the West African nation of Liberia, said Saskatchewan deputy chief medical health officer Dr Denise Werker on Monday. She said tests have been sent to the public health agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Results are expected on Tuesday, but Werker said they may be inconclusive.

"All we know at this point is that we have a person who is critically ill who travelled from a country where these diseases occur," Werker said. "There is no risk to the general public at all about this."

Werker said health workers caring for the man at a hospital in the city of Saskatoon were taking precautions by wearing masks, gowns, gloves and boots. She said haemorrhagic fevers are not easily spread.

Haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola can be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions. The Ebola virus leads to severe haemorrhagic fever and internal bleeding and has no vaccine or specific treatment.

Werker said the man showed no signs of illness while he was travelling. The incubation period for haemorrhagic fever is up to 21 days, she said.

"Viral haemorrhagic fever is a generic name for a number of rather exotic diseases that are found in Africa," Werker said. This class of diseases includes Ebola haemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and yellow fever.

Ebola is one of the most contagious viral diseases known, often resulting in death. The virus cannot be prevented with a vaccine and is untreatable with medication. – Sapa-dpa, Sapa-AP

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