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Ebola Confirmed in Liberia as Guinea Death Toll Rises

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Two cases of Ebola were confirmed in Liberia as the death toll from Guinea’s outbreak, called “unprecedented” by an international aid organization, climbed to 80.

One of the confirmed cases in Liberia has died, while a second person who died with a suspected Ebola infection tested negative for the virus, the World Health Organization said in a statement. Both confirmed cases in Liberia were exposed to Ebola in Guinea, Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, said on Twitter.

The outbreak is the worst in seven years, and the first in Guinea, which has 122 suspected or confirmed cases and 80 deaths, the WHO said today. The distribution of cases in different areas of the West African nation, from villages in the country’s south to the coastal capital of Conakry, makes the outbreak unlike any other, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases,” Mariano Lugli, coordinator of the organization’s project in Conakry, said today in a statement. “This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organizations working to control the epidemic.”

Monkeys, Bats

The government has asked people not to eat monkeys, chimpanzees and bats and to avoid travel in the affected areas, while Senegal closed its border with Guinea. Guinean President Alpha Conde called for calm.

The country is taking steps to “fight this epidemic effectively,” Conde said in a broadcast on state-run Radio Television Guineenne yesterday.

The Economic Community of West African States expressed “deep concern” over the outbreak and asked for international help in combating the “serious threat” it poses to regional security. The WHO doesn’t recommend any restrictions on travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone because of the outbreak.

The Guinean towns of Gueckedou and Macenta, near the border with Liberia, have been hardest hit, with 55 and 14 deaths respectively, according to Guinea’s health ministry. There are 11 confirmed cases in the capital Conakry, and three deaths, Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, said today by phone from Guinea.

The virus, first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is transmitted to people through the blood and other secretions of wild animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, bats and porcupines, according to the WHO. Humans transmit the virus to each other through contact with blood and other body fluids.

All the outbreaks in the past decade have been in Congo, the neighboring country of the Republic of Congo, and Uganda, with the exception of one outbreak in Sudan in 2004.

There are no drugs or vaccines approved to treat or prevent Ebola.

To contact the reporters on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at sbennett9@bloomberg.net; Ougna Camara in Conakry at ocamara@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net Kristen Hallam, Andrew Pollack

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