Conakry — Guinea identified the Ebola virus Saturday as the source of a highly contagious epidemic raging through its southern forests, as the death toll rose to 59.
Experts in the west African nation had been unable to identify the disease, whose symptoms — diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding — were first observed six weeks ago, but scientists studying samples in the French city of Lyon confirmed it was Ebola, the Guinean health ministry said.
“The Ebola fever epidemic raging in southern Guinea, including the prefectures of Gueckedou and Macenta, since February 9 has left at least 59 dead out of 80 cases identified by our services on the ground,” said Sakoba Keita, the ministry’s chief disease prevention officer.
“We are overwhelmed in the field, we are fighting against this epidemic with all the means we have at out disposal with the help of our partners but it is difficult. But we will get there,” he told AFP.
To date, no treatment or vaccine is available for Ebola, which kills between 25% and 90% of those who fall sick, depending on the strain of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.
The disease is transmitted by direct contact with blood, faeces or sweat, or by sexual contact or unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.
Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement it would strengthen its team of 24 doctors, nurses, logisticians and experts in hygiene and sanitation already in Guinea.
The organisation has set up isolation units for suspected cases in the southern region of Nzerekore and is looking for people who may have had contact with the infected…