10K contracted Ebola in West Africa
Johannesburg — More than 10,000 people in West Africa are believed to have contracted Ebola in the biggest outbreak of the deadly disease, and nearly 5,000 have died, according to the latest World Health Organization report, amid concerns about a potential spread of the disease in Mali.
Fears rose about how many people may have been infected by a 2-year-old girl before she died Friday in Mali.
The child was taken by her grandmother from Guinea to the western Mali town of Kayes by bus, a journey of almost 700 miles. The child was symptomatic — and therefore infectious — for much of the journey, according to the WHO. For part of the trip she was bleeding from the nose.
Malian authorities have traced 43 people who were in contact with the child, including 10 health-care workers. But the long journey by public transport raises the possibility that some people who may have been infected will be difficult to trace.
The WHO sent experts and equipment to Mali in a bid to ensure the outbreak doesn't get out of hand. Though Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said Saturday that all the girl's contacts had been found and were being monitored, the WHO said they were tracing further contacts.
According to Keita, the dead girl's grandmother went to a funeral in Guinea. Burials of Ebola victims carried out without proper safeguards are one of the main means of the transmission of the virus in West Africa.
"We are paying dearly for this," the president said in comments to Radio France International. "But I think this will cause more fear than anything else. The case was quickly contained."
Also at risk is Ivory Coast, with Ebola present in six of the eight Guinean and Liberian districts along its border. The virus has spread into every district in Sierra Leone and all but one Liberian district, as authorities grapple with a shortage of treatment beds and burial teams to deal with infected bodies.
Mauritania, which neighbors Mali, has closed its border as a precaution. But Keita said his country would not close its borders despite the Ebola threat. He said the recent case showed it was impossible to completely insulate the country from the disease.
"We will do everything we can to avoid panic," he said.
The three worst hit countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — count 4,912 deaths. According to the WHO, Liberia is believed to have had 4,665 cases, mainly in the capital, Monrovia. Sierra Leone reportedly has had 3,896 cases and Guinea 1,553 cases.
Other countries where cases have been reported include the United States, Spain, Nigeria and Senegal. Nigeria and Senegal have been declared Ebola-free after more than 42 days without reporting a case.
The WHO's goal is to have 70 percent of West African cases isolated by Dec. 1 and 70 percent of burials conducted safely by then to contain the spread of the disease. More than 3,200 new treatment beds are needed, according to the WHO, and thousands of health-care workers and hygienists will be needed to run them.