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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 29 November, 2014

DFA updates travel advice, as Guinea Ebola epidemic spreads

An outbreak of the virus has killed dozens of people in the West African nation’s southern forests.

Image: NIAID via Flickr/Creative Commons

IRISH TRAVELLERS PLANNING a visit to (or returning home from) the West African country of Guinea are being issued with fresh travel advice.

It follows an outbreak of Ebola that’s killed dozens of people in the state’s southern forests.

According to the latest Department of Foreign Affairs advice, updated today:

Any traveller returning from a trip to (or travel through) the affected areas, and who develops a fever [greater than] 38C within 21 days of their return should seek urgent medical attention.

However, the Department states that the World Health Organisation has advised against travel or trade restrictions on Guinea or neighbouring countries “based on the current information available on this Ebola outbreak”.

According to the AFP news agency, the outbreak has now spread to the country’s capital, Conakry — with four new cases confirmed. The patients were immediately put in isolation centres to avoid the highly contagious virus getting into the population.

Fever

Aid organisations have sent dozens of workers to help the impoverished country combat a haemorrhagic fever outbreak which has claimed at least 63 victims in the rural south, many of whom have been confirmed to have been infected by Ebola.

Ebola had never spread among humans in west Africa before February but five deaths being investigated in Liberia, one in Sierra Leone and others still being tested could bring the total in the epidemic to above 70.

The tropical virus — described in some health publications as a “molecular shark” — causes severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

Scientists have examined 45 samples from victims of the epidemic, with 19 testing positive for Ebola, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Authorities in Conakry on Sunday identified three cases of haemorrhagic fever — two of them fatal — but samples taken from the victims tested negative for Ebola.

Other factors

Other highly-contagious tropical bugs, including Marburg and Lassa, can lead to similar symptoms and have not been ruled out as contributing factors in the epidemic.

Sierra Leone warned on Tuesday that a 14-year-old buried recently may have been infected in Guinea, while the deaths of four women and a boy in Liberia are being tested for the killer virus.

Guinea has banned inhabitants of the south from eating bats, a common feature of the local diet, as the creatures are considered to be the natural host of the virus.

Transmission of Ebola to humans can come from wild animals, direct contact from another human’s blood, faeces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

Includes reporting from AFP.

Read: Funerals are spreading deadly Ebola virus, warn doctors

Read: Ebola outbreak in Guinea ‘could become regional epidemic’

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